ShareThis Page
WVU

Utah kicker could be difference against West Virginia in Heart of Dallas Bowl

| Monday, Dec. 25, 2017, 6:36 p.m.
FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2017, file photo, Utah place kicker Matt Gay (97) kicks in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona in Tucson, Ariz. Kicker Matt Gay is one positive in a serious slump for the Utah Utes. Colorado's kicker is a 30-year-old freshman, while Washington State's kicker booted a 56-yard field goal last weekend. The Pac-12 has some intriguing players at the vitally important position. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2017, file photo, Utah place kicker Matt Gay (97) kicks in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona in Tucson, Ariz. Kicker Matt Gay is one positive in a serious slump for the Utah Utes. Colorado's kicker is a 30-year-old freshman, while Washington State's kicker booted a 56-yard field goal last weekend. The Pac-12 has some intriguing players at the vitally important position. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

DALLAS — If the Heart of Dallas Bowl comes down to a kick for Utah against West Virginia, the Utes will turn to someone who entered this season with only one year of high school football, didn't know what the Lou Groza Award was, yet walked off with it a few weeks ago.

Matt Gay has difficulty describing what has transpired over the past five months.

“It's been crazy,” he said. “I'm trying to figure out the emotion of things.”

Gay's Utes (6-6) need a victory Tuesday to finish with a winning record for the fourth consecutive season.

West Virginia (7-5) already has done that but wants to end a two-game losing streak that began when quarterback Will Grier — eighth in the FBS in passing yards per game — was lost with a broken middle finger on his passing hand during the first quarter against Texas.

Gay walked on last summer after playing soccer for Utah Valley and narrowly lost the starting job to freshman Chayden Johnston. After Johnston's first attempt went wide from 45 yards in Utah's opener, Gay was told, “You have the next one.”

And the job was his. Gay leads the FBS with 27 field goals, missing only four attempts. He has hit eight of at least 50 yards, converting twice from 56.

Gay was awarded a scholarship in October, days after he was reclassified athletically as a junior through a ruling related to taking a Mormon mission while at Utah Valley.

“I'd like to say I coached him up,” Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said. He conceded Gay arrived with excellent mechanics while working with a private coach and Utah's staff “gave him a few tips here and there.”

“His approach on the ball is fast,” Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I don't know what his range is. It's longer than 56.”

Three Mountaineers receivers, including second-team All-American David Sills V, rank in the top 30 in receiving yardage.

Sophomore Chris Chugunov took over for Grier and went 24 of 46 for 326 yards.

“It's not like he doesn't know the offense,” Holgorsen said.

Here are other things to consider in the second meeting between the schools, the first a 32-6 Utah victory 53 years ago:

Missing mountain men

Besides Grier, the Mountaineers will also be missing leading rusher Justin Crawford as the senior prepares for the NFL Draft. Crawford had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with 11 total touchdowns.

Back in play

Utah's sophomore quarterback, Tyler Huntley, missed the regular-season finale with his second shoulder injury of the season but is 100 percent, Whittingham said.

Indoor history

The other meeting between the schools was the first major college bowl game played indoors, according to the Utah sports information department.

It was the Liberty Bowl at the convention center in Atlantic City, N.J.

Pool sharks

Holgorsen and Doug Elisaia, Utah's strength coach, were teammates at Iowa Wesleyan in the early 1990s.

“I used to beat him at pool,” Holgorsen said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me