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Old 12-27-2017, 12:01 PM
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Default Utah 30 West Virginia 14
DALLAS - West Virginia was hoping to use today's Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl to get some momentum heading into 2018.

Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, that didn't happen.

West Virginia's offense, without several key playmakers including starting quarterback Will Grier, played in a fog thicker than today's Dallas weather that enveloped the Cotton Bowl, and the Mountaineers fell to Utah this afternoon, 30-14.

The Utes (7-6) did most of their damage on the ground, getting a pair of short rushing touchdowns from quarterback Tyler Huntley and a 58-yard jaunt from Zack Moss on the game's opening possession.

Groza Award winner Matt Gay kicked three field goals from distances of 29, 26 and 24 yards.

Moss finished with a game-high 150 yards on 20 attempts, while Huntley contributed 57 yards on 25 rushes. Huntley completed just 12 of his 26 pass attempts for 165 yards.

Utah has now won 11 of its 12 bowl games under coach Kyle Whittingham and both meetings against West Virginia, the other victory coming in similar fashion in the 1964 Liberty Bowl before an empty stadium and a national television audience.

The attendance listed for today's game was 20,507 - the lowest for WVU in a bowl game since 6,059 showed up indoors in Atlantic City in 1964 to watch Utah defeat West Virginia 32-6.

Today, West Virginia (7-6) simply didn't have an answer for Utah's eight-man fronts and tight man-to-man coverage. When receivers were open, backup quarterback Chris Chugunov couldn't locate them; when they weren't, he was usually on his back.

WVU's ground game was also non-existent with starting offensive linemen Kyle Bosch (knee) and Yodny Cajuste (hamstring) out for today's game. West Virginia ran the ball 21 times, netting 29 yards against Utah's front four, the longest carry being a 7-yard Kennedy McKoy run late in the game.

Leading rusher Justin Crawford opted not to play in the game to concentrate on the NFL Draft.

The Mountaineers' 85 total yards and three first downs through three quarters sent researchers deep into the record books seeking the last time a WVU team failed to gain 100 yards of offense in a game.

The search ended when Chugunov completed a 38-yard pass to Gary Jennings Jr. late in the fourth quarter to finally push the Mountaineers past 100 total yards. On the very next play, Chugunov's 18-yard pass to the corner of the end zone was pulled in by senior Ka'Raun White, culminating a 67-yard march against mostly Utah backups.

McKoy's two-point conversion pass to Trevon Wesco was successful.

On the ensuing kickoff, West Virginia recovered an onside kick, but Chugunov's next throw sailed high of his intended target right into the arms of Julian Blackmon, his second pick of the game.

WVU finished today's game with 153 total yards and just six first downs. The prior low under coach Dana Holgorsen was 175 yards and six first downs in a 37-0 loss to Maryland in 2013.

"A disappointing loss to end a disappointing season," Holgorsen said.

Chugunov misfired on 19 of his 28 pass attempts and finished this afternoon's game with just 129 yards passing.

"We needed guys to step in and play at a high level and they didn't," Holgorsen said. "We lost a great player in Will Grier and his backup needed to step in there and play great and he didn't. If your backups don't go in there and play at a high level you get beat by good teams and that's what happened today."

Jennings and Marcus Simms caught three passes each, Jennings for 66 yards and Simms for 33. All-America wide receiver David Sills V failed to catch a pass.

For a brief moment, it looked like West Virginia (7-6) might make a game of it midway through the third quarter when Dante Bonamico and Shane Commodore converged on Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky at the Utes' 9 and smothered him there.

But three unsuccessful plays, a McKoy run and two Chugunov incomplete passes, left the ball at the 9 and required a second Evan Staley field goal, a 26-yarder, to make it 17-6, Utah.

That was basically how things went for West Virginia's offense the entire afternoon.

Three plays after Simms was tackled after clearly making a fair catch signal on Wishnowsky's punt, the illegal roughness penalty that should have been called on Utah's Caleb Repp was called instead on West Virginia's Josh Sills to negate a rare Chugunov completion, a 20-yarder to Simms that would have been enough for a first down.

Then, another penalty called on West Virginia linebacker David Long Jr. during a Utah punt resulted in a Utes first down when they brought the offense back out onto the field and completed a 25-yard pass play to the WVU 7.

Another WVU penalty, a late pass interference penalty called on Elijah Battle, gave Utah the ball first and goal at the 2. Huntley walked in from there to make it 24-6 to put this one out of reach.

Early on, it took the Utes just four plays to cross the goal line on the opening drive of the game when Moss took a straight handoff from Huntley and ran untouched right down the middle of the field 58 yards into the end zone.

Utah's second touchdown happened late in the second quarter and came as a result of a muffed Simms punt at the WVU 13. The football hit Simms on the shoulder pads as he was attempting to gather it in around the 15 and Utah's Cody Barton recovered it at the 13.

Three plays later, Huntley skirted in from the 2 with 5:08 remaining in the second quarter. The Utes got the ball back minutes later and used a 39-yard Huntley pass to Raelon Singleton down the far sideline to get into position for Gay's 29-yard field goal with 1:08 left

Two of WVU's three first downs in the first half came on the drive that resulted in Staley's 28-yard field goal early in the second quarter.

Senior Kyzir White led the WVU defense with 13 total tackles, seven unassisted, a sack and a tackle for a loss. Long was credited with 2 sacks. The Mountaineer defense sacked Huntley six times.

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Old 12-29-2017, 11:16 AM
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