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2011 Sun Bowl Recap

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs Utah Utes - Utah 30, Georgia Tech 27 (OT)

The Utah Utes appeared to be dead in the water on Saturday afternoon in the Sun Bowl, the second-oldest bowl game in the United States alongside the Sugar and Orange Bowls. From the depths of hopelessness, however, the lads from Salt Lake City were able to create a fresh, young memory in this venerable postseason classic.

It was hard to imagine how Utah was going to come back against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at the Sun Bowl stadium in El Paso, Texas. Utah’s passing offense – which floundered for much of the season, especially in an ugly regular-season finale against Colorado on Nov. 25 – was doing absolutely nothing against the Georgia Tech secondary. Moreover, Utah quarterback Jon Hays threw a 74-yard pick six to the Jackets in the third quarter, enabling Tech to accumulate its 14-point lead and put the Utes on the precipice of defeat. Georgia Tech maintained a 24-10 bulge well into the fourth quarter. With eight minutes left in regulation, Utah still hadn’t made a dent in Tech’s lead. The Yellow Jackets’ triple option attack was and is one of the best clock-draining, ball-control-oriented offenses in the United States. Utah was going to have to score a touchdown, get a three-and-out from its defense, and score another touchdown just to force overtime.

Long odds, long climb… no problem for Utah.

Hays found a small dose of magic in the final eight minutes of regulation. He started to make the throws that he had been missing during the regular season. When he hit teammate Kendrick Moeai with a three-yard touchdown pass at the 6:50 mark of regulation, Hays pulled Utah within seven points at 24-17, achieving the first part of the “score-stop-score” plan for coach Kyle Whittingham’s club.

Then came the defensive stop. Utah’s increasingly confident front four blew up three straight option plays, erasing the fullback up the middle and forcing Tech quarterback Tevin Washington into an errant pitch which almost resulted in a fumble recovery for Utah. As it was, the Utes got their three-and-out, earning good field position for their next drive. Utah appeared to have hit a wall when the Utes faced 4th and 14 from the Tech 28 with roughly 1:40 left, but Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh inexplicably ordered man coverage. Utah receiver DeVonte Christopher beat Tech’s cover corner in man coverage along the left sideline, and sure enough, the Utes had caught the Jackets. Georgia Tech missed a 49-yard field goal at the end of regulation, and after the Jackets opened overtime with yet another measly three-point kick, Utah pounded the ball into the end zone on an eight-yard touchdown run by John White IV. Georgia Tech did collapse, but give Utah credit for fighting back in the midst of a situation which seemed to promise ultimate defeat.

By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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