Shelley, Shyne help Utah beat Oregon 32-25
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Jason Shelley may be a freshman and undersized for a major college quarterback, but he doesn’t lack confidence.
“We know what we can do. We know we can play. We’re here for a reason,” Shelley said. “We couldn’t wait to prove it.”
In his first start, Shelley ran for two touchdowns and Armand Shyne had 174 yards rushing to power Utah past Oregon 32-25 on Saturday.
The Utes (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12) lost Tyler Huntley, their starting quarterback, and running back Zack Moss, who had already rushed for 1,092 yards this season, to injury within a few days of each other.
“They could either pick up the slack and move forward or feel sorry and mope and pout. But that is not us. That is not our culture,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said of his team, which stayed atop the Pac-12 South standings.
Shelley utilized quick passes, a strong running game and some misdirection in the offense to complete 18 of 31 passes for 262 yards with no interceptions.
“He rose to the occasion tonight,” Whittingham said.
On a drive keyed by a 36-yard pass to Jaylen Dixon, Shelley punched in the go-ahead touchdown from 2 yards out with 6:48 to play.
“It was a pretty exciting debut for me,” Shelley said and then chuckled at his understatement.
The Utah defense, which dominated in the first quarter and then was on its collective heels when Justin Herbert starting finding receivers all over the field, stopped the Ducks (6-4, 3-4) on the ensuing possession when Jaylon Johnson broke up a fourth-down pass.
Herbert went 20-for-33 for 288 yards but was sacked four times and simply ran out of time. Dillon Mitchell caught eight passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns, including multiple acrobatic grabs.
“We knew he was going to make some plays. He’s a really good quarterback and has some good guys around him,” said Utah’s Chase Hansen, who had 3.5 tackles for loss and 13 overall.
Utah lost more than 80 percent of their offensive firepower when Huntley broke his collarbone at Arizona State and Moss’s knee locked up early in the week and put him on crutches. But that didn’t faze Shelley and Shyne.
“We don’t get nervous. We just play football,” Shelley said.
Shyne’s running prowess bolstered a sustained drive that gobbled up Oregon’s time outs and culminated in Matt Gay’s sixth field goal from 24 yards — a new school record.
“It felt good,” Shyne said. “It reminded me of when I was playing a couple years ago.” That was before Moss asserted himself as one of the nation’s top backs and Shyne struggled with injuries.
After Utah’s last score, the Ducks had only 15 seconds to drive the entire field. Herbert got one completion but the clock ran out as he spiked the ball on second down. The officials ran off the field — trailed by some of the Oregon coaches — and then returned to announce the time had indeed expired after video review.
Kano Dillon blocked a punt at the Utah 3-yard-line, which led to Herbert’s touchdown pass to Travis Dye. Herbert rolled out to his right again and hit Jaylon Redd for a two-point conversion and Oregon led for the first time, 25-22.
“I felt that we had momentum,” Ducks linebacker Thomas Graham said. “As a defense, we stepped up in the second half but we gave up that deep ball in the second half and didn’t give our offense another chance.”
Utah: The only major drawback to the Shelley-led attack was failing to finish drives. Gay bailed out the offense, including a 55-yarder on the final play of the first half to make it 19-7. “We just wanted to get Matt Gay some field goals,” Shelley deadpanned, but earlier had said, “I’m glad he made them but I’d rather have touchdowns.”
Oregon: The Ducks began the day two games behind Washington State in the Pac-12 North and their loss, along with WSU’s 31-7 win over Colorado, eliminated Oregon from contention in the division. “It’s progress in terms of getting things going after a rough start, but there’s no comfort in progress,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said.
“I think he’s the best kicker in the nation ... if you give him the opportunity, he converts,” Whittingham said of Gay.
The Ducks play host to Arizona State — which has won three in a row, including a 38-20 win over Utah — next Saturday.
Utah travels to Boulder to take on Colorado next Saturday.