No. 11 Utah falls flat on New Year's Eve

Ryan Kostecka

That's not how Utah expected to end the 2019 college football season.

Traveling to San Antonio to face a 7-5 Texas team in the Alamo Bowl on New Year's Eve, the Utes were in a great position to finish with its first 12-win season since 2008 when they finished with a perfect 13-0 record after a dominating win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

With so much to play for; the opportunity to end the season and the decade on a high note, gain much-needed confidence heading into next year while sending off the seniors on a high note, Utah just flat out didn't show up.

The Utes were beaten in every facet of the game en route to a 38-10 season-ending loss, leaving questions of what went wrong as the new highlight of the offseason.

"Very disappointing end to a very good season,'' Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said postgame. "We got outplayed, we got outcoached. We didn't handle their pressure like we should have."

That basically summed it up.

Utah, which entered the game with the nation's top rush defense, was gashed for 231 yard on 6.2 yards per carry as Texas running back Keontay Ingram finished with 108 yards on 13 carries and one score. Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger added 73 yards and a score as well while throwing for three touchdowns.

"We knew that we were going to have to play with a greater passion and physicality than they would,'' said Texas coach Tom Herman.

In his final game as a Ute, quarterback Tyler Huntley finished 15-of-23 for 126 yards and a score, to Demari Simpkins, who was also playing in his final game. Running back Zack Moss finished his career with 16 carries for 57 yards.

“I just felt like they was just playing a little bit harder than us,” Huntley said. “They stopped us on key downs, third downs, fourth down, and that’s what happened.”

Utah's offense, which had achieved so much throughout the regular season, fell completely flat in the first half as it was held scoreless while Texas took a 10-0 lead heading into the break.

The first possession of the second half saw Utah find some momentum on offense. Facing a 4th-and-1 at its own 45, Whittingham elected to roll the dice and go for it, but Huntley was stopped for a loss of two yards — and three plays later Ehlinger found Devin Duvernay for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead.

A 32-yard field goal by Jason Redding got the Utes on the board the following possession.

Trailing 24-3 entering the fourth quarter, Huntley ended the third quarter with a 26-yard run, helping Utah put together its best scoring drive of the game when it went 75 yards in nine plays, before he found Simpkins for the score to make it 24-10.

But the defense, after playing so well in the first half, began to wilt. Texas scored touchdowns on its next two possessions to close out the game as Ehlinger and Ingram became unstoppable.

With the loss, Utah heads into the offseason with questions that needs answers. The Utes must replace 10 starters, seven of which came on a defense that was among the best in the nation for most of the season, and two offensive stars who are among the best to ever wear a Utah uniform.