Utah Tech Loses Despite Gutsy Call
What a game. Utah Tech had an incredible offensive performance and an amazing final drive but came up one point short. I love that they went for the win. Here is the press release from UT Athletics Media Relations: (full link)
Despite a season-high 505 yards of total offense, including a career-best 397 passing yards and three touchdowns from Kobe Tracy, Utah Tech dropped a United Athletic Conference heartbreaker at North Alabama, 31-30, on Saturday night at Braly Stadium in Florence, Ala.
Trailing 10-0 midway through the second quarter, Utah Tech (2-5/1-1 UAC) mounted the first of its school record two 99-yard touchdown drives for its first points of the night.
Ronnie Walker Jr. gave the offense a bit of breathing room to begin the drive as bolted through the line for a 19-yard gain. Nygel Osborne followed that up with runs of 8 and 6 yards, which helped erase a Blazer penalty before Tracy found Keith Davis for a 6-yard gain and a first down.
Facing 3rd and 10 at the UT 35, Tracy again hooked up with Jaivian Lofton for a clutch 37-yard completion to the UNA 28.
Then after another Tracy-to-Lofton 11-yard connection moved the ball to the UNA 17, the junior quarterback hit Rickie Johnson in stride over the middle at the UNA 13, where the senior wideout turned the corner and took it to the house for UT's first score of the game with 4:28 to go in the first half.
North Alabama (3-5/1-3 UAC) quickly answered with a touchdown of their own nearly two minutes later, but Utah Tech managed to close the half with a 32-yard Connor Brooksby field goal to go into the locker room trailing by a 17-10 count.
Utah Tech received the second half kick off, but the kick was muffed and recovered by the Blazers at their own 1-yard line.
Pinned once again at their own goal line, the Trailblazers methodically drove the full 99 yards in 11 plays, which Walker Jr. capped with a 1-yard dive to knot the score at 17-17 with just under 10 minutes to play in the third quarter.
Walker Jr. accounted for 34 of those yards, including a 17-yard scamper, while Tracy hit Davis on back-to-back completions, the last was a 40-yarder that moved the Blazers from their own 25 to the UNA 35.
Walker Jr. followed that up with 14 more yards before Tracy moved UT to the Lion 6 after a 15-yard completion to Lofton. Tracy then scrambled five yards to the UNA 1 to set up the Walker Jr. plunge.
North Alabama countered again on its ensuing possession, this time with a near seven-minute drive that spanned 81 yards in 15 plays to go back on top 24-17.
Trailing by that same score with three minutes gone in the fourth, Utah Tech rattled off a 10-play, 86-yard drive that Tracy ended when he found a leaping Beau Sparks in the back of the end zone to pull the Blazers even at 24-24 with 6:06 remaining.
The Lions, who were just 4-of-13 on third down on the night, managed to convert on a pair of fourth downs on its next possession. The last of which put them ahead for good when quarterback Noah Walters floated a 28-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Dakota Warfield on 4th and 3 to make a 31-24 game with 1:37 to play.
After a UNA penalty on the PAT try forced the Lions to kick from their own 20, Osborne took the ensuing kick off and returned it 18 yards to the UT 31. Tracy then led the Blazers the final 69 yards in just over a minute, with 19 of those yards coming on his final TD pass of the night to Sparks with 31 seconds to go.
Utah Tech head coach Paul Peterson elected to go for the go-ahead points, but Tracy's throw into the end zone on the two-point try was deflected away at the last moment by a Lion defender.
North Alabama was then able to field the Blazers' onside kick try and knelt out the clock to end the game.
Tracy, who also threw for three touchdowns two weeks ago in UT's home win vs. Stephen F. Austin, completed 26-of-40 of his attempts, while his three-touchdown game was the fourth of his career, and marked the first time he did it in consecutive starts.
The redshirt junior's 397 yards bested his previous career high of 388 yards he threw for in a home win last year vs. Chadron State (9/10/22). In addition, Tracy had five completions of 30 or more yards to four different receivers.
That quartet of receivers also came close to making history in their own right as each of them finished with at least 90 yards receiving. Lofton led the receiving corps with 105 yards on four catches, including a 42-yarder in the first quarter.
Johnson posted his second-straight 100-yard game as he caught seven balls for an even 100 yards, including a 34-yard fourth quarter reception. Johnson's second quarter touchdown catch, the 12th of his career, moved him into solo seventh on UT's career TD receptions list, and the senior also vaulted into fourth all-time in career receptions (125).
Utah Tech barely missed having four 100-yard receivers in one game for the first time in program history. Sparks' two-touchdown night was his second in his last three games as he finished with eight catches for 92 yards, 37 of which came on a second quarter Tracy connection.
Meanwhile Davis finished with a season-high 94 yards on six receptions.
Walker Jr.'s third-quarter touchdown rush was his team-leading third of the year as the fifth-year back ran for 71 of UT's 108 net rush yards on 13 carries.
Prior to Saturday night, Utah Tech only had eight total 99-yard touchdown drives in its previous 185 games during its NCAA era, the last of which came at home vs. Tarleton (3/13/21) in the program's third-ever Division I FCS game during the 2021 spring season.
Defensively, the trio of Will Leota, Dondi Fuller and Brevin Hamblin (career high) each racked up 11 total tackles. Leota also collected two tackles for loss, while Fuller recorded the Blazers' lone sack of the night.
The Trailblazers held North Alabama to an opponent season-low 118 yards passing, though Walters did manage to rush for 105 of the Lions' 302 yards on the ground.
Utah Tech is returns to Greater Zion Stadium next Saturday as the Trailblazers celebrate Homecoming by hosting current UAC co-leader Eastern Kentucky. Kick-off is slated for 6 p.m. (MT).
2023 Highest Paid College Football Coaches
Gallery Credit: David Schultz