SAN ANTONIO — Although the Alamo Bowl has been quite hospitable, 11th-ranked Utah was a win away from the going to the Rose Bowl or even the College Football Playoff. A 37-15 loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game led to an obvious change in destination.
Coming that close to being on the big stage, acknowledged Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley, was painful.
“I think our guys have done a really good job of just making sure that we’re focused for this game. Because this is the one that really matters right now for us.” — Utah running back Zack Moss
“We were kind of sad, you know, very sad. But we’ve got another great opportunity to win another game right now,” Huntley said. “So we’ve (gone) out and prepared the past few days as we’ve been doing, just getting ready for this game and just fine tuning the mistakes we made in that game.”
Senior running back Zack Moss is also confident the Utes can bounce back against Texas and finish the season on a high note. He referred to the Oregon loss as a “small hiccup” in their way.
“I think our guys have done a really good job over the last couple weeks of just being out here, being back in Salt Lake, preparing for this game and moving past it,” Moss said. “We can’t dwell on a game like that because you won’t be able to move forward, and that’s in life.
“I think our guys have done a really good job of just making sure that we’re focused for this game,” he continued. “Because this is the one that really matters right now for us.”
Utah’s offense faces a Texas squad that has struggled this season. The Longhorns are 108th nationally in total defense, giving up 446.3 yards per game. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando was fired after the team went 7-5 in the regular season. As such, the Utes may be thrown a curveball or two with interim defensive coordinator Craig Naivar calling the shots for Texas.
Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig noted that the Utes are preparing for other possibilities. However, he knows that not much can change over three weeks.
“I don’t expect wholesale changes, but all the statistical data that we’ve accumulated in terms of breaking down film is pretty much useless with a new play caller calling the defenses,” Ludwig said. “But you have to have a starting point to go off of what you see on tape. We feel very confident in our preparation so far and that needs to put us in a great position to adjust on the fly, which is going to be an absolute necessity on this football game.”
Utah’s education also includes a lesson learned in the Oregon game. Huntley said it’s something the Utes have thought about since the setback.
“We just learned that we’ve got to take every play as if it could be your last,” he explained. “We got to fine tune a lot of things over these past three weeks, got better as a team.”
Huntley added that the Utes are “just looking forward to this game.” As a senior, the all-conference first-team honoree is determined to go out with a win.
“These last couple of days have been getting a little rough. I started to realize that it’s going to be like kind of the final days of me seeing my boys every day in a sense,” Huntley said. “But it feels good knowing that I gave it my all about everything that went on and it’s going to feel even greater when we get this win.”
2019 Alamo Bowl
No. 11 Utah (11-2) vs. Texas (7-5)
Alamodome, San Antonio
Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. (MT)
Radio: ESPN 700AM