This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Even after the interviews ended Saturday afternoon, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham kept repeating the description.
"Weird," he said, having adopted a word he liked. "Weird."
That's not the only label for the Utes' 19-14 victory over Oregon State at Reser Stadium, but it certainly works.
Occasionally, this kind of thing happens on the Road to the Rose Bowl. That's the venue where No. 21 Utah (6-1) is headed next Saturday, facing UCLA in a Pac-12 South battle. Whether the Rose Bowl Game itself fits into the Utes' plans this season is another issue, as that goal hardly came into more reasonable focus after their performance against the Beavers.
The Utes won this game, which is worth remembering. After all the twists and turns of the fourth quarter, they happily ran up the long ramp toward the locker room in the basement of the nearby basketball gym, hearing taunts from Oregon State fans lining the barriers.
"Ha, ha, you lost," responded Utah quarterback Troy Williams, and he was speaking accurately although subjectively, some would give the Beavers more credit for their showing.
Whittingham might be one of those people. "Didn't play our best football," he said.
He'll live with this outcome, though.
Utah showed signs of dominating in the first half, and was disappointed to lead only 12-0. And then the Utes looked up early in the fourth quarter with OSU at the Utah 9-yard line and threatening to take the lead, trailing 12-7.
If you were shocked by that development, so were the Utes. Thanks to Utah's offensive production of 4 yards in the third quarter, Oregon State managed to stay in the game while passing for 1 yard through three quarters amid intermittent wind and rain.
With running back Joe Williams returning after a month's retirement from football to rush for 142 yards in the first half (finishing with 179 yards on 34 carries), the Utes were in control. But then they couldn't run at all and OSU thrived on the ground even while struggling to complete a pass.
Weird? I'd say so.
"All of a sudden," said Utah safety Chase Hansen, "you realize, this a fight."
The Utes survived, which beats the alternative. They played through more injuries, did some creative staffing at the running back position and produced a supposedly clinching touchdown after Filipo Mokofisi's fumble recovery at the OSU 11, making it 19-7.
Of course, this game ended only after a third-string quarterback led a TD drive that gave the Beavers a chance with 1:40 left. OSU's feeble onside-kick attempt resulted in players from each team watching the ball trickle out of bounds, far short of the required 10-yard distance. Even then, OSU got another shot after a fourth-down stop, but went nowhere in the end.
The predicted apocalyptic weather in Corvallis never really materialized Saturday, making Whittingham dismiss the forecast as "nonsense" before correcting himself as thankful for the reasonable conditions.
The wind did make passing difficult. Williams went 4 of 13; OSU's Darell Garretson started 1 of 16 before three straight completions gave the Beavers their go-ahead opportunity. But then he got hurt on a second-and-goal play, his backup threw an incompletion and OSU missed a field goal that would have made it 12-10.
Trading touchdowns in the last four minutes then worked for the Utes, who are in serious need of regrouping and recovering the problem being that UCLA and Washington remain on their October schedule, before they get any break. "We need to start getting some of those [injured] guys back," Whittingham said.
The available Utes were just good enough to win Saturday. In another month or so, we'll know if this struggle was a sign of weakness, or just another obstacle on the way to big things.