ASU rallies to pick off Utah 20-19

John Coon, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SALT LAKE CITY -- Pure survival was the only thing that mattered for Arizona State in the fourth quarter Saturday against Utah.
The Sun Devil offense fought hard to claw back into the game and retake the lead late in the quarter. But Utah still had one final chance to complete an improbable upset bid when its offense took over with 1:20 remaining.
That's why defensive tackle Will Sutton could not have picked a better time to snag his first career interception.
Sutton picked off a pass from Travis Wilson at the line of scrimmage with a minute left, sealing a 20-19 comeback victory for No. 23 Arizona State on Saturday.
Wilson threw interceptions to end each of Utah's final two drives.
"Everybody was more excited than me," Sutton said. "I was trying to catch my breath. Everybody was hitting me in my head and I couldn't catch my breath. But I just came back to the sideline with a giant smile on my face, knowing we just sealed the deal. We got away."
Quarterback Taylor Kelly accounted for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to lead the Sun Devils' rally. He rushed for two scores and threw for 144 yards and a touchdown on 19-for-31 passing for the Sun Devils (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12), who trailed by 12 points to start the fourth quarter.
Running back Marion Grice added 136 yards on 20 carries to help Arizona State stay on top of the Pac-12 South with three games remaining.
Wilson threw for 121 yards and two touchdowns for the Utes (4-5, 1-5), but he completed just 6 of 21 passes.
"To be one quarter away from beating another Top 25 team at home and be one win away from a bowl game and lose like that was hard," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "It was ours to lose and we just lost."
Trailing 19-7 entering the fourth quarter, the Sun Devils finally found the offensive spark that had eluded them for three quarters.
Kelly scored on a 2-yard keeper to cut the Utah lead to five. Then Kelly connected with wide receiver Richard Smith for 14 yards to secure the go-ahead touchdown with 2:37 remaining. Grice ripped off a 38-yard run to set up the winning score.
Kelly's two-point pass attempt failed, after Utah defensive end Trevor Reilly sacked him, leaving the Sun Devils' lead at 20-19.
It didn't matter. Robert Nelson picked off a pass from Wilson at the Utah 43-yard line on the first play of the following drive. Then Sutton followed with his pick at the Utah 25 with 1:01 remaining.
"That's what our offense does," Kelly said. "We kept fighting through adversity. Guys were coaching each other and keeping guys up. We weren't going to quit."
Arizona State marched down the field on its opening drive. A big run by Grice, coupled with a personal foul penalty, set up the Sun Devils deep in Utah territory. It opened the door for Kelly to score on a 10-yard keeper and give Arizona State an early 7-0 lead.
Utah cut the lead to 7-6 on an 8-yard catch by junior wide receiver Dres Anderson. The Utes lost yardage on all three plays on their first offensive series because of a pair of sacks on Wilson. They came back strong on their second drive, converting a pair of fourth downs with runs from Bubba Poole. It set up a one-handed, juggling catch by Anderson in the end zone.
The Utes took a 9-7 lead in the second quarter when Andy Phillips made a career-long 51-yard field goal on a low-flying kick.
Utah's defense made life tough for the Sun Devils during the second quarter. Arizona State gained just 31 yards as Utah defenders consistently breached the line of scrimmage and stuffed plays in the backfield. By halftime, the Utes had tallied four sacks and seven tackles for loss.
"That's the best we've been defended," ASU coach Todd Graham said. "They did a tremendous job. We got a lot of negative yardage plays. They did a great job of keeping us out of rhythm."
Phillips gave Utah a 12-7 lead on a 43-yard field goal to cap the Utes' opening drive of the third quarter.
After struggling in the passing game throughout the first half, Wilson delivered a pair of big throws to help Utah pad its lead. He found Anderson for a 55-yard bomb to set up a 12-yard touchdown pass to Sean Fitzgerald that gave the Utes a 19-7 lead with 5:19 left in the third quarter.
Utah turned conservative on offense entering the fourth quarter and the Utes' defense could not protect the lead from a Sun Devil offense that found renewed energy down the stretch.
"We didn't finish," Reilly said. "That's on our defense. We had a 12-point lead, but we didn't protect it. In the first three quarters we were shutting them down, but we didn't keep it going in the fourth quarter."
NOTES: Utah had won 49 straight games when leading at halftime before losing to Arizona State. That was the second-longest streak nationally behind Oregon, which has won 58 consecutive games with the halftime lead. ... The Sun Devils allowed a combined minus-3 yards rushing in wins over Washington and Washington State. Utah tallied 99 yards on the ground by halftime. ... Utah gained just 17 yards in the fourth quarter.

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