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Utes on a mission to win the Pac-12 South

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah quarterback Troy Williams made it clear after Thursday’s 49-26 victory at Arizona State. The Utes are on a mission.

“We all want to get to the Pac-12 Championship,” he said. “We still control our destiny. So we just have to take it one week at a time and just keep working.”

Utah (8-2, 5-2) is two wins away from reaching the conference title game for the first time. If USC defeats UCLA later this week, it’ll be the only way the Utes, who host Oregon Saturday (noon, Pac-12 Networks) and play at Colorado seven days later, can get there.

“It’s down to a two-game season,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “We’ve got the Ducks rolling in next week at our place, and that will be our entire focus.”

The Utes head into the matchup with some new accolades. They moved up to No. 11 in both national polls and senior Hunter Dimick is the reigning Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week. The defensive end set a school record with five sacks against the Sun Devils.

Dimick’s contributions were part of effort by the defense that resulted in 22 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. Marcus Williams and Chase Hansen intercepted passes. Hansen’s was returned for a touchdown.

“There was nothing we went after or noticed in particular,” Dimick said. “We take a lot of pride in pressuring the quarterback and that is the game plan.”

The offense, meanwhile, overcame a shaky start that included fumbles on its first two possessions. Troy Williams finished with 296 yards passing and four touchdowns. Running back Joe Williams continued his post-retirement success with 181 yards rushing and two scores. Cory Butler-Byrd (seven receptions), Raelon Singleton (three touchdown catches) and Siaosi Wilson (27-yard TD catch) highlighted the receiving corps.

Troy Williams addressed the bad beginning.

“It was just a little rust. I was not too concerned about it because I knew we would get the energy going,” he said. “We just stayed on track and continued to play.”

And, obviously, it paid off — keeping Utah in the Pac-12 South title chase with Colorado (8-2, 6-1) and USC (7-3, 6-2). The Buffaloes defeated Arizona Saturday and the Trojans knocked off No. 4 Washington.

Utah’s next hurdle is an Oregon team that has fallen from prominence. The Ducks are just 3-7 overall and 1-6 in Pac-12 play.

Prior to the game, the Utes will honor their seniors. The class includes contributors like running back Joe Williams; receivers Cory Butler-Byrd and Tim Patrick; tight end Evan Moeai, offensive linemen Isaac Asiata, J.J. Dielman, Sam Tevi and Nick Nowakowski; defensive linemen Dimick, Pita Taumoepenu and Pasoni Tasini; defensive backs Dominique Hatfield, Reggie Porter and Justin Thomas; kicker Andy Phillips; and snapper Chase Dominiguez.

Whittingham acknowledged they will be missed.

“Just like every year, you hate to see them leave and you wonder how you’re going to replace them. Somehow you find a way,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys in this senior class that have been instrumental in getting us on track in the Pac-12.”


Twitter: @DirkFacer