Williams leads No. 23 Utah by Arizona
TUCSON, Arizona — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham had the luxury of a veteran on the bench to help keep things calm on the field.
In stepped Troy Williams to save the day for No. 23 Utah in a 30-24 victory over Arizona on Friday night at Arizona Stadium in front of the smallest announced crowd in 32 years (36,651).
Williams replaced injured Tyler Huntley midway through the first half to help keep Utah ahead. Huntley had gone 8-of-9 passing before suffering the injury.
Whittingham said he was not clear on what the injury was to Huntley.
Williams finished 9 of 18 for 131 passing yards for Utah (4-0).
“We’re in good place quarterback-wise; we want to get Tyler back as soon as possible,” Whittingham said. “But Troy won nine ballgames for us last year and he was ready. To his credit, when his number was called he was ready.”
Arizona (2-2) did have some success on the ground against the country’s second-best defense against the run, getting 200 yards. Utah, second in the country against the run, had given up 49.3 yards per game on the ground.
“They got about two thirds of what they get, it’s tough and it’s a great scheme,” Whittingham said of Arizona’s offense. “They run it better than anyone in the country. They have a very athletic quarterback ... (their running game) is really potent.
“We did a decent job on the run game but not nearly as well as we did last year.”
Arizona looked out of it until Shawn Poindexter recovered an onside kick with 2:42 left in the game. But on the next play, Arizona’s Dawkins, who had a rough night, fumbled the ball away with 2:33 left.
Arizona was its own worst enemy in the second half. In total, Dawkins had three interceptions and Arizona added two fumbles for the game.
“We competed enough to win,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “We just made a few key mistakes. We’re going to watch the film and just be sick over some of the mistakes we made, but also missed opportunities.
“That probably bothers us as much anything, that we had a touchdown here or a big play here. That’s part of learning and growing and fixing.”
The Wildcats were their own worst enemy in the second half.
Overall, Dawkins had three interceptions and Arizona added two fumbles for the game.
“He was doing good, then he would make a mistake,” Rodriguez said of Dawkins. “He competes. He’s trying.”
With 9:48 left in the game, Arizona running back Nick Wilson dropped a pass after being wide open and that would have put Arizona in a great position to score and keep it close. Two plays later, Josh Pollack’s 47-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
That came after Dawkins threw his second interception of the game, hitting defensive back Javelin Guidry in the hands for an easy 14-yard return to give Utah a 27-17 lead.
Arizona closed the gap from 20-10 when running back J.J. Taylor scored on a 7-yard run with 4:38 left in the third quarter.
Utah put a little distance on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter when Matt Gay hit a 37-yard field goal with 4:58 left for a 30-17 edge.
Arizona came right back on its next drive when Tony Ellison scored on 30-yard touchdown pass from Dawkins.
Utah scored on two of its first four possessions and took a 13-10 halftime lead.
Utah scored first with 10:35 remaining in the opening quarter by going 73 yards. Huntley threw an 8-yard pass to Samson Nacua to help give Utah a 7-0 lead.
Arizona followed with a 32-yard field goal by Pollack to make it 10-3.
After a failed possession, Utah scored on a Gay 41-yard field goal with 28 seconds left in the first.
Williams replaced Huntley at quarterback with 8:45 left in the second quarter.
He came in and completed a 40-yard pass to Darren Carrington II on his first play. Huntley remained out of the game for the remainder of the half.
Arizona averted a semi-disaster when Wilson apparently hit Siasoi Wilson for an 8-yard touchdown, but after further review Wilson was ruled out of bounds on the catch.
Utah followed Wilson’s overturned catch with a 26-yard field goal to make 13-3 with 5:39 left. The drive started on Arizona’s 1-yard line.
NOTES: Utah S Marquise Blair was ejected with 5:16 left in the third quarter after he was penalized for targeting on a run by Arizona QB Brandon Dawkins. He will be suspended for the first half of the next game. ... Utah DL Kylie Fitts was taken off the field late in the first half with an undisclosed injury. ... Arizona played without LB DeAndre Miller (foot). Also, WR Cam Denson (foot) was listed as unavailable for the first time this season for the Wildcats.