SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Despite some 24 players held out for health reasons, the 17th annual Red White spring game provided a thrilling finish at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Defending Lou Groza Award winner Matt Gay kicked a 57-yard field goal in the final seconds to give the Red team a 25-23 victory over the White Team.
“One of the more dramatic spring games we’ve had in several years,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “But more importantly than that, it was a clean scrimmage. Very few penalties. The young quarterback threw a couple of picks, but we’ll get that cleaned up. It’s a whole learning process for him. A lot of excitement. Matty Gay hitting that field goal at the end was critical. We had a laundry list on both sides of the ball. And I think we, without question, made progress in every area.”
Tyler Huntley and Jason Shelley were the quarterbacks for the Red team with Huntley passing for 72 yards (6-for-12, 1 TD) and Shelley adding 85 yards passing (11-for-14, 1 TD) and 22 yards rushing.
For the White team, Drew Lisk turned in a strong performance with 133 yards (8-for-12, 2 TD) with Jack Tuttle adding 86 yards passing for a touchdown (8-for-14, 2 INT).
“I felt like I had a pretty good spring,” said Huntley, who will begin fall camp as the Utes starting quarterback. “Every day I was just working on my craft and just bettering myself. It’s gonna be a great team.”
Tight end Bapa Falemaka led the Red team with six catches for 69 yards while tight ends Conner Haller and Jake Jackson led the White team with 54 and 50 yards receiving, respectively.
Jameson Field and Batchlor Johnson each caught touchdown passes for the Red team, while Demari Simpksin, Jackson and Samson Nacua caught TD passes for the White team.
Armand Shyne led the Red team in rushing with seven carries for 28 yards while Tuttle had 22 yards for the White.
The Red team struck first after Javelin Guidry picked off Tuttle for a 17-yard return, setting up the red squad for its first scoring drive of the game. Huntley linked up with Field for a seven-yard touchdown just two plays later, giving the Red team a 7-0 lead at the 8:59 mark in the second quarter.
The White team took the momentum back with a safety after Pututau sacked Shelley in their own end zone to cut the Red lead to 7-1 with 6:48 on the clock in the second quarter. The White team then took the lead later in the second quarter when Tuttle found Jackson open.
Jackson broke through multiple tackles to find the end zone, ending with a 49-yard reception from Tuttle. It put the White squad up 9-7 with 5:37 left on the clock, ending a 55-yard scoring drive that took 1:11 off the clock.
Red continued to press on offense, keeping the second quarter shootout going with a two-yard rushing score from Wood to give them a 14-9 advantage with 18 seconds remaining in the quarter.
It was a defensive battle in the third quarter with no points scored on either side. Tafua was able to come up big for the red team when he forced a fumble on a Mason Woodworth rush, recovering the ball and getting it back in Red’s hands.
The White team got things started in the fourth quarter when Lisk and Simpkins were in sync for a 12-yard touchdown with 9:21 on the clock. It gave White a 15-14 advantage, ending an 80-yard drive that had started in the third quarter.
Red didn’t quit though, winding down the clock to eventually send Johnson into the end zone on a seven-yard pass from Shelley with 2:45 on the clock. The Red team went for two with Shelley finding Field open for the conversion, giving the Red team a 22-15 lead heading into the final two minutes of the game.
White countered after Lisk drove the team down field for 65 yards, ending the drive with a 12-yard scoring pass to Nacua. The White team also went for the two-point conversion, walking away successful with Lisk getting a pass into Jaylen Dixen to give White a 23-22 lead with 28 seconds remaining in the game.
The Red team started its drive at the 50-yard-line and was able to get it to the 38 before calling a timeout with three seconds left in the game. It was then up to Gay, who entered the field to attempt the 57-yarder, and with no hesitation, knocked it through the uprights for the 25-23 victory.
The Utes open the 2018 season August 30th against Weber State.