This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The cart entered the field, just as the Utah Utes were exiting.

One of the weirdest game-ending scenes in the football program's history unfolded at Husky Stadium in Seattle, where Utah safety Chase Hansen sustained a season-ending ankle injury on the last play of his first start. He had switched to defense, changed numbers, replaced a senior starter and become a star, only to get hurt when a teammate rolled into him on a meaningless play to conclude the Utes' 34-23 victory.

The Huskies are coming to Rice-Eccles Stadium this weekend; Hansen won't return to Seattle until next season. Yet seeing those gold helmets will bring that moment into focus for anyone who witnessed it last November.

"Me, too," Hansen said this week, managing to smile.

The injury has been tough to overcome, considering how and when it happened and everything involved in Hansen's rehabilitation. He's back as an impact player in the Ute secondary, leading the team in tackles and recently delivering a first-quarter sequence of an interception, a sack and another tackle for loss at Oregon State.

But then came last week at UCLA, where the Utes allowed 464 passing yards and the tight end whom Hansen helped cover caught eight passes for 146 yards. The Bruins' statistics were staggering, with 40 completions in 70 attempts. "Exhausting" is Hansen's word for an afternoon he'll remember happily, considering the Utes won, 52-45.

"After that game, I was almost more proud of myself for that performance than any of the others. … I was proud of us, that we fought the entire day," he said.

The wild adventure at the Rose Bowl reminded Hansen of a 2011 game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, where his Lone Peak team survived a 45-41 battle with Jordan in the Class 5A semifinals. The difference? He was the winning quarterback that afternoon — producing a bunch of yards and points, not trying to prevent them. In those days, he was known to sneak onto the field and play defense, but now he's a full-time safety in college.

As a redshirt freshman last year, Hansen was Utah's No. 3 quarterback, behind two seniors. So he asked about playing defense and made the move in mid-October — wearing No. 22, because his duplicate No. 15 was acceptable for an offensive player, but not for another defender. After appearing in three games, he replaced a healthy Tevin Carter in the starting lineup at Washington (Carter would conclude his career as the Las Vegas Bowl MVP with two interceptions vs. BYU).

Hansen played a "phenomenal" game against the Huskies, as Ute coach Kyle Whittingham said at the time, making 11 tackles and forcing a fumble. "The coaches put me in a position where I didn't have to think, I just ran around and made plays," Hansen said, looking back.

And then he was hurt on the final play when Washington's Jake Browning completed a 5-yard pass to Lavon Coleman in the middle of the field. Utah's Gionni Paul made the tackle, as Hansen converged and defensive lineman Lowell Lotulelei rolled into him in the pile. Teammates huddled around Hansen, then the cart carried him off the field and the rest of the Utes sang the fight song with their fans in a corner of the stadium.

Naturally, some "why me?" moments would follow that episode. "Plenty of those," Hansen said, good-naturedly.

Hansen fought through the rehabilitation, chose to stick with defense and has tried not to wonder how he would feel physically these days if not for the injury's lingering effects. Hansen enjoyed being fresh and healthy for that game against Washington, as opposed to being worn down after eight games this season. The Utes will get a break next week, but only after facing the No. 4 Huskies in the most anticipated game of Utah's Pac-12 era.

The Huskies will remember Utah's playmaking No. 22, and he'll recall a ride he never wanted to take, the last time he faced them. He's wishing for a happier personal ending this week, while hoping the Utes have a similar outcome.

Twitter: @tribkurt

comments powered by Disqus