SALT LAKE CITY — Always so reliant on the run, Stanford switched things up near the goal line with time winding down.
Two passes. Two incompletions. And that was that as No. 5 Stanford's 13-game winning streak was snapped, falling 27-21 to Utah on Saturday.
Soon after Utah quarterback Travis Wilson took a final knee, the raucous crowd stormed the field to celebrate the team's biggest upset at home. It was the first time in school history the Utes (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) have knocked off a top-five program at Rice-Eccles Stadium. They beat No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl following the 2008 season.
Given the scare Utah gave No. 11 UCLA last week, the Cardinal (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12) knew this wouldn't be easy.
“Every team that comes here has been in deep water and they've been close games,” linebacker Trent Murphy said. “It was not a surprise to us that they played well.
“We're disappointed more than anything else.”
Stanford coach David Shaw tried to explain the curious play calling with a minute left to play, saying he wanted to save their final timeout.
On third down, Kevin Hogan gave the look of a run, only to drop back and pass, missing Charlie Hopkins.
Stanford then called timeout.
On fourth, with 2 yards to go for a new set of downs, Hogan, amid heavy pressure, overthrew Devon Cajuste.
“We could have changed the play but we didn't,” Shaw said. “We still had a chance but they got to the quarterback.”
Utah (4-2, 1-2) kept Stanford's stingy defense off balance all day with a mix of draws and wide receiver screens. Dres Anderson caught a 51-yard TD pass and scored another on a short run. Bubba Poole finished with 111 yards rushing and had another 75 on seven catches.
“This is as well as I've seen Utah play on the offensive side,” Shaw said. “They really strung things together.”
Ty Montgomery returned a kickoff for a touchdown for a second straight week. This time, Montgomery took the ball a few steps deep in the end zone and darted through the Utes before going 100 yards, tying a Stanford record.
“I got to give it to my teammates. I went untouched,” explained Montgomery, who also had eight catches for 131 yards along with a fumble.
Cajuste made a diving catch on a fade route to trim the Utah lead to 27-21 with 9:22 remaining, but the Cardinal couldn't complete the comeback.
A week after throwing six interceptions, Wilson showed more poise in the pocket. His only mistake was on a screen, when his pass was tipped into the air and picked off by Joe Hemschoot.
Wilson finished 23 of 34 for 234 yards. He cut his throwing hand on a hard tackle early in the third quarter, continuously wiping the top of it on his towel. But the injury didn't seem to affect his touch. Neither did those interceptions.
“He's a resilient kid. Tough as nails,” coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We had a feeling he was going to come back and play like he did tonight. Bottom line, he bounced back. He's got a lot of competitive spirit.”
Utah showed its spunk, bouncing back from a close loss last week to UCLA.
“We weren't able to make the plays (last week),” Whittingham said. “The difference tonight, we were able to make those plays.”
Stanford struggled on offense in the second half, turning the ball over twice on fumbles with Reilly recovering both. The Utes turned those into field goals by Andy Phillips, a 23-yard and a 48-yarder. Phillips, a former U.S. ski team member, is 11 for 11 this season.
Hogan dropped to 10-1 as a starter against a spirited Utah defense.
It was a week filled with controversy for Stanford after Washington coach Steve Sarkisian accused the Cardinal of faking injuries to slow down the tempo, leaving Shaw to vigorously defend his program.
This time, that wasn't an issue.
Utah went on a season-long 99-yard drive in the second quarter, culminating with Anderson's 3-yard score on an end-around. It gave Utah a 21-14 at halftime, marking the first time all season the Cardinal has trailed at the break.
It was a day of firsts for the Stanford defense, which hadn't allowed an opening quarter TD all season until Saturday. Karl Williams scored on a 4-yard pass from Wilson on Utah's opening drive and Anderson later hauled in a 51-yard pass from Wilson. It was Anderson's fifth play of 50 or more yards this season.
“Utah played their hearts out,” Montgomery said.