Phillips pulls through for Utes

By By Liz Frome , Staff Writer

By Liz Frome , Staff Writer

As the minutes ticked off the clock in the Utes’ nail-biting 23-26 loss to BYU on Saturday, Utah’s offense struggled to put the ball in the end zone.

Although the Utes put points on the board on each of their five red-zone opportunities, they had to settle for a field goal from kicker Joe Phillips all but once to do so. Phillips put another field goal through the posts outside the red zone, ending the night five for five.

Despite Utah’s score increasing just three points at a time, the scores put the Utes on the board in Provo and allowed them to tally a 6-0 lead on the Cougars at the end of the first quarter.

The completed attempts from a calm and composed Phillips also led the Utes on a comeback from a 14-point deficit later in the game to give Utah a chance to claim the 2009 Holy War victory and a 10-2 record. Utah was unable to capitalize on the opportunity, but head coach Kyle Whittingham said Phillips deserved to be praised for his performance.

“This was obviously a tough game and a tough loss for us, as most losses are in this rivalry…(but) I was proud of Joe Phillips for converting five field goals,” Whittingham said. “But therein lays our problem because we were kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.”

Doing the necessary work on the other side of the field, Utah’s defense held the Cougars to three red-zone opportunities, strangling Hall’s passing completions to just 12 of 32 for 134 yards on the night. Hall felt Utah’s defensive aggression, as he was sacked four times throughout the game by four different Utes.

As their defense held Hall and BYU silent throughout the entire second half, the Utes were given opportunities to take the lead and the game, but the offense still couldn’t find the end zone.

Phillips opened the fourth quarter and ended the Utes’ two-quarter scoring drought with a field goal to bring the Utes within 11, followed seven minutes later by a touchdown from junior running back Eddie Wide. After a successful two-point conversion, the Utes cut the lead to three and managed to keep the Cougars from scoring for the duration of the game.

With less than 30 seconds left in the game, Phillips again pulled through for the Utes, completing a 40-yard field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime.

Utah was again unable to put the ball anywhere but between the goal posts after the coin toss put the Utes on offense to start the extra time. The score that put the Utes up 23-20 could have been enough, but in one of their only significant flaws of the game, Utah’s defense let Hall throw one of his 12 completions to senior tight end Andrew George, who slipped through two tackles for the Cougars’ final touchdown in LaVell Edwards Stadium.

“It’s one thing we just talked about in the locker room,” Phillips said. “If we’re kicking field goals, it means we’re not finishing for touchdowns. It’s a bittersweet thing when I go out to kick a field goal.”

The five successful field goals were a career high for Phillips, completing from 21, 29, 31, 39 and 40 yards.

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Richard payson/The Daily Utah Chronicle

Joe Phillips kicks a field goal to give the Utes the first points in overtime. Phillips provided the Utes with five field goals Saturday as the offense struggled to find the end zone.