The Utes used a narrow upset over a Michigan team that would eventually lose nine games to catapult itself to an unblemished 13-0 season to start 2008.
Kyle Whittingham is hoping that a similar outcome in the Ann Arbor could do something similar for his Utah squad again six years later. And after navigating an extended (try 2 hours and 24 minutes) lightning delay, Utah put an end to Michigan's sobering evening in front of a bizarrely empty Michigan Stadium.
The most encouraging aspect of the Utes impressive win in Ann Arbor is how complete this roster appears to be.
Travis Wilson, who has navigated numerous concussion issues during his time in Salt Lake City, again dealt with some minor problems after his helmet popped off and he landed awkwardly on his neck. But, under the tutelage of first year coordinator Dave Christensen, Wilson led his offense to three second-half scoring drives — which was plenty for Whittingham's defense.
The Utes were relentless on defense, forcing four Michigan turnovers, allowing just three offensive points and holding the Wolverines to a season-low 4.1 yards per play.
While the defense was dominant and the offense was just good enough, what makes Utah's thorough victory the Big House so impressive was the third aspect of the game.
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Kicker Andy Phillips drilled four field goals and two extra points for a perfect evening and has made 23 of his 24 total kicks this fall. Kick and punt return dynamo Kaelin Clay proved once again to be a mighty weapon. The electric senior from Long Beach, Calif., returned a punt 66 yards for his third return score of the season (the two others were on kickoffs).
This was a relatively easy and utterly complete road victory over a Big Ten blueblood. The importance of this workmanlike win for a team that has failed to reach the postseason since joining the Pac-12 in 2012 cannot be overstated. The Utes will be a factor in some capacity in the South Division race.
For Michigan, the glaringly empty and eerie 105,000-seat stadium following the weather delay told the entire story.