SALT LAKE CITY -- 20th-ranked Utah entered the first five weeks of the season exactly where they wanted: undefeated (4-0), and with a chance to remain that way heading into next week's anticipated showdown against fellow Pac-12 South power USC.
But then again, the Utes were quickly reminded why Stanford was favored by three and a half points Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Cardinal (4-2) and their Heisman-seeking tail back, Bryce Love, held off the Utes 23-20.
Love piled up 152 yards, and broke a big touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to finally put the taste of defeat into Utah’s mouth after a bye week.
After an early Cardinal field goal, the mystery of who would start at quarterback for Utah was put to rest. Troy Williams came out on to the field for a second straight start in replacement of the injured Tyler Huntley, and he led Utah into the end zone on the Ute’s second drive of the game. Zach Moss scored from two yards out.
But that lead would disappear for good early in the second quarter after Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst scored on a keeper and the Cardinal led 13-10 at the half.
After trading field goals in the third, Love finally made the noise everybody was expecting. Utah’s stout frontline defense had been effective at containing Love for most of the night, until with twelve minutes left in the game he broke a run 68-yards for a 23-13 lead.
It was then up to the senior, Williams, to engineer a comeback. But last year’s starter would proceed to throw back-to-back interceptions on Utah’s path for the end zone. The first one to Quentin Meeks after being pressured and flinging an ill-advised pass down field, followed by another one with 5:52 left that was picked by Justin Reid.
A late touchdown to Darren Carrington was later followed up by a failed Utah onside kick.
Williams finished 20 of 39 for 238 yards, and defensively, Sunia Tauteoli led the Utes with 11 tackles, including three and half for a loss. Matt Gay also missed the first field goal of his career, a 50-yarder in the first half, all after starting the season a perfect 14 of 14.