Utah QB Huntley injured, senior backup Williams stayed ready
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — It’s not clear when Utah will get starting quarterback Tyler Huntley back, but the Utes have a more than capable backup.
Huntley left the field in the second quarter of last Friday’s 30-24 win over Arizona and later returned with his right arm in a sling. Coach Kyle Whittingham said no season-ending injuries were suffered in the game but declined to provide more details. Utah typically does not disclose injuries unless they end a player’s season.
The Utes are on a bye week. They host Stanford on Oct. 7.
“We’re going to be optimistic and hope everybody’s ready in two weeks,” Whittingham said. “Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but we’ll have to see what happens.”
Senior captain Troy Williams replaced Huntley and threw for 131 yards and rushed for a touchdown. Williams started all 13 games in 2016 but lost the job to Huntley during preseason camp. Whittingham doesn’t anticipate any significant changes in the new spread offense run by first-year coordinator Troy Taylor if Williams has to play more.
“We tweak a little bit, there’s not a wholesale change,” Whittingham said. ”(Williams is) a very capable runner. He’s good in the pocket. Troy Taylor will tailor the game plan to fit his specific skill set. There’s not a great deal of difference of things that we need to change or do. Troy is fully capable of running this offense just as is.”
Both Whittingham and Williams said there wasn’t any need for the team to rally around the quarterback when he entered the game. Williams has continued his routine of being one of the last players on the practice field long after the session has ended. That’s what he did as a starter, and he wanted to do the same despite losing the job.
“That just made me realize that I had to work even harder,” Williams said. “Whatever I did, I had to multiply it by three, by four. Whatever it was I was doing, I put extra on it and made sure when my number is called, I had to be ready.
“I didn’t want to be that guy that, I didn’t get the spot, so now I’m not doing extra things to make myself better. I didn’t want to be that guy that guys look over and say he’s pouting.”
The decision to go with the sophomore Huntley over Williams was a surprise at the time. Williams won nine games as a starter last season. He was voted a captain again this year before he lost the starting job.
Huntley quickly took control, leading the team to a perfect start. He has accounted for 66 percent of the Utes’ total offense. His 293.5 yards of total offense per game ranks No. 27 in the nation, and his 73.3 completion percentage ranks No. 7. He’s the first Utah quarterback to record back-to-back 300-yard passing games since Brian Johnson in 2008.
There was some worry that Huntley would be vulnerable to injury since he’s a bit slight (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) and is the team’s second leading rusher. He was injured on a passing play.
Williams said his family and his faith helped keep him in the right frame of mind. He knew all eyes were on him as a team captain and wanted to continue to set an example for others.
“You’ve got to understand it’s a business, even in college,” running back Zack Moss said. “He’s a great role model of how to continue to work hard even when things aren’t going your way. Sometimes you’ve got to keep working.
“It would have been easy for him to just say, ‘I lost the job,’ and take a seat back and let things happen. But he kept fighting.”
NOTES: Running back Armand Shyne will redshirt, Whittingham said. The junior was in the mix to start before suffering a lower arm injury during camp. Whittingham said there won’t be enough time left in the season by the time Shyne is healthy to warrant using a year of eligibility. ... Starting defensive end Kylie Fitts left the Arizona game with an injury and returned to the sideline on crutches. He is tied for the team lead with two sacks. Whittingham did not detail Fitts’ injury either.
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