EL PASO, Texas-- John White took his final hand-off of the day, followed his lead blocker and set of a celebration.
White plowed into the end zone from 8 yards out to give Utah a 30-27 overtime victory against Georgia Tech on Saturday in the Sun Bowl.
“They trusted me with the ball, so I saw Shawn Asiata blast somebody, and I knew I was going to go in,” White said. “As soon as the ball crossed the plain I looked up to the ref and saw his hands go up and knew it was a touchdown so I just wanted to go celebrate with my teammates.”
Justin Moore kicked a 34-yard field goal in Georgia Tech’s overtime possession to take a three-point lead, but White finished a 115-yard rushing day with the game-winning score on his 26th carry.
The Utes (8-5) tied it in regulation when Jon Hays hit DeVonte Christopher with a 28-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-14 with 1:32 left in the fourth quarter.
“There’s no quit in these guys,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “They kept believing, coaches kept believing, and we found a way to win in the end.”
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson was disappointed with his team’s play in the fourth quarter.
“We couldn’t block in the fourth quarter, and the plays we needed to make just didn’t happen,” Johnson said. “It feels like somebody kicked you in the gut. When you are competitive, it really hurts”
The Yellow Jackets (8-5) drove to the Utah 31 with two seconds left, but David Scully missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt as time expired to send the Sun Bowl to overtime for the first time in its 77-year history. Moore had earlier missed two 42-yard tries for Tech.
“I thought (Scully) hit the ball good, and I actually thought it went in, but I guess it was a few feet to the right,” Johnson said. “We didn’t make enough plays, and we missed three field goals.”
Georgia Tech lost its seventh straight bowl appearance and Utah improved to 7-1 in bowls under Whittingham.
Georgia Tech’s Preston Lyons, who entered the game with only 39 carries, rushed for a career-best 140 yards on 18 carries and Tevin Washington passed for 137 yards and ran for 97.
Utah grabbed a 7-0 lead on Asiata capped the game-opening drive with a 1-yard run.
With David Sims out of with an injury and Orwin Smith also ailing, Georgia Tech relied heavily on Lyons, who put the Yellow Jackets on the board with a 36-yard run up the middle tie the game at 7.
Lyons finished the first half with 129 yards on 12 carries.
“Defensively we were real soft against the running game in the first half,” Whittingham said. “They had a nice scheme and showed us stuff we didn’t practice. It took us awhile to adjust to that and we gave a bunch of rushing yards in the first half however only seven points, which is the bottom line.”
Coleman Peterson banked in a 25-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the first half to give the Utes a 10-7 lead.
A 27-yard punt by Utah set up Moore’s 32-yard field goal to tie it in the third quarter.
The Yellow Jackets scored again on their next possession. Washington hit Embry Peeples with a 58-yard pass, then found Stephen Hill for a 31-yard touchdown to make it 17-10.
Moments later, Quayshawn Nealy picked off a pass by Hays and returned it down the sideline 74 yards for a touchdown with 4:14 left in the third quarter.
“We should have put the game away in the fourth quarter,” Johnson said. “We didn’t let up. We ran most of the same plays in the fourth quarter that we ran in the rest of the game.”