The Utah Utes held off a hungry Boise State Broncos team on Sunday, winning 10-8 in a closely matched game.
The Utes struck first with thirteen minutes left in the first quarter after the two teams traded saves to begin. On a clear, Randy Butts found Sam Schwoebel, open in front the cage for the score, setting the tone for Utah’s defense to be aggressive. Utah earned the first man-up situation from an illegal body check called on Boise State with 11:37 left in the first quarter. Boise was able to get the ball back on a shot that Utah didn’t have back-up. The Broncos Attackmen Andrew Rusin scored, assisted by John Neal III, to even the score. With a flag down, Utah Attackmen Tyler Kunz answered back, sweeping across the defense for a lefty goal. From there the two teams clamped down defensively, forcing turnovers, with both goalies making key saves down the stretch. Utah was able to break the stalemate with two and a half minutes left and ended the first quarter up 3 – 1.
The intensity began to pick-up in the second. As the game went to the ground so did players from the physicality. Utah’s offensive rhythm continued with a second straight assist by Tyler Grogg and a goal by Senior Midfielder Zac Harris. Cody Cantrell would score at 8:22 to put the Utes up 5 – 1. With a solid lead, Utah’s defense seemingly fell asleep, allowing three goals from Rusin, two of them assisted by Utah native Karson Fulmer. Boise was able to capitalize on penalties to cut the lead to one for the first time since the early first quarter. Utah held a 5 – 4 lead at halftime.
Utah and Boise traded goals in first five minutes of play in the second half. Utes Freshman David Bicker scored his first career goal to increase the lead back to two. Rusin came right back to score his fourth goal of the game for the Broncos. The Utes’ came out of halftime intent on being more aggressive with their ride and caused several turnovers. The defense, continuing their physical play, allowed only one goal in the third. One more goal by Bicker put Utah up seven to five over the Broncos going into the fourth quarter.
Boise came out hungry in the fourth quarter tying the game at 7 at the 10:24 mark with goals by Rusin, his fifth, and Neal III respectively. Just eight seconds later Kunz scored with his ability to break down a defense and added his second solo score, giving the Utes the game-winning goal. Zac Harris and Matt Mersereau scored to make it three straight for a 10 – 7 lead with under 6 minutes left. Boise wasn’t finished however, taking eight shots to score. Utah Goalkeeper Jeff Nielsen had two big saves before Boise’s Neal III caught the back of the net with 2:20 left in the game. Utah was able to get the face-off and chew the clock. The Broncos got the ball off of a Utah turnover but were unable to hold on to it. Kunz put an exclamation point on the game with a massive hit near the sideline. Kunz was called for an illegal body check giving the ball back to Boise with 0:42 left. The Broncos had three shots in that time but were unable to convert as the University of Utah held on to win 10-8.
The game was intense and was exciting and hotly contested throughout. Part of the philosophy that new head coach Rick Kladis hopes to instill in his players, most of which are underclassmen, is a sense a pride and a winning culture. Whether it was shoveling snow, playing Utah’s fight song after goals or something else entirely, the Utes played aggressively and Boise State could not match their intensity and physical nature. There was no shortage of pride for Utah on their home field Sunday. Something they will need take advantage of with eight more home games this year. Including a game against defending champion and current No. 1 ranked Colorado State in April.
Utah (1-0) travels to UCLA next weekend to face the Washington Huskies on the 15th and the Oregon State Beavers on the 16th.
Boise State (1-2) has two weeks to regroup after losing to BYU and Utah before playing Washington in Seattle on the 22nd.