SAN FRANCISCO – University of Utah student-athletes Sabine Krautgasser (skiing) and Zack Johns (lacrosse) have been named the Utes’ recipients of the Pac-12 Postgraduate Scholarship award.
Awarded annually to two student-athletes from each Pac-12 school since 1999, the postgraduate scholarships are worth $9,000 each. The program was created to both honor and financially assist some of the Conference’s most outstanding athletes and scholars as they continue their education and prepare for careers in their chosen industries. These worthy student-athletes maintained a 3.0 grade-point-average and demonstrated a commitment to education, campus and community involvement, and leadership.
Krautgasser is set to pursue her master’s degree at Utah in a coordinated program of nutrition and dietetics, while Johns will pursue a master of science in finance at the U.
Krautgasser, a native of San Candido, Italy, was part of two NCAA Championships qualifying teams in her career at Utah, in 2017 and ’18. She notched two top-10 finishes and four career top-15 finishes. Prior to joining the Utes, Krautgasser was a member of the Italian National Team in 2015-16, and finished 10th in the slalom at the 2016 Italy National Championships. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Utah in kinesiology.
Johns, who hails from Henderson, Nev., has played four seasons for the Utes’ lacrosse team as a goalkeeper. In 2021 he played in seven games, starting five in goal and compiling a team-best .529 save percentage. Johns began his career in 2018 with Utah’s club program and played in 10 games that season with 22 saves. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Utah in quantitative analysis of markets & organizations.
To be eligible for the annual scholarship, student-athletes must have:
An overall undergraduate minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.00 (based on a 4.00 scale);
Completed his/her final season of intercollegiate athletics eligibility in all sports or be in his/her final year of undergraduate study, having exhausted athletics eligibility in all sports (unless an exception is made to defer the award, because eligibility remains);
Been accepted to or already be enrolled as a full-time student in a graduate or professional program at an accredited institution, or in a postgraduate program for which an undergraduate degree is required for admission;
Performed with distinction as a member of a varsity team; and
Exemplified behavior, both in competition and beyond, in a manner that has brought credit to the student-athlete, the institution, and intercollegiate athletics.
Johns has one season of eligibility remaining to play for the Utes’ lacrosse program in 2022.
Outstanding Utah women’s soccer star Taliana Kaufusi, is the daughter of Jason Kaufusi, a former University of Utah Football standout and current Outside Linebackers Coach at UCLA. Taliana said in an interview recently that her legacy at the U was “special” to her and that it influenced her decision to become a Ute.
Taliana is off to a strong start at the U, making the “2020 Pac-12 All FreshmanTeam”.
She started in all 16 games last season and was tied for fifth on the team in points with three points, and was sixth in minutes played.
Taliana lettered at Highland High School and was a member of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
So far in the 2021 season, Taliana has 1 goal against Portland and is proving to be an integral part of the Utah Women’s Soccer team in her sophomore campaign. Keep your eye on Kaufusi!
I remember walking through the portal and up to my seats at the Memorial Coliseum, a gargantuan structure just off Figueroa in the heart of South-Central Los Angeles. Having grown up in L.A. I understood the historical significance of it all. I took a deep breath and looked around the stadium, which was a sight I won’t soon forget. Utah was now “big time”, and it was clear that we were a long, long way from Laramie.
As I watched the Utes run out onto the field while “Utah Man” blared from the band, the experience quickly became surreal. It really was official…Utah was in the PAC-12, the “Conference of Champions”, and our first game was against the mighty Trojans of USC. We still needed to earn our right to be there, and our first test was against one of the most storied football programs in college sports history.
My hope was that we might at least compete that day, but I had been a college football fan long enough to know that USC would almost always be a formidable, fierce opponent. When comparing the size difference between the two teams, it was obvious who had the advantage, and truly, it wasn’t even close. Utah was playing with Mountain West Conference talent, and SC’s twos and threes were just as good or better than a lot of our ones. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.
When I saw in person the sheer violence and aggression SC played with, I feared we might get run out of the stadium. It wasn’t long before I realized that we flat out could not run the ball, and that was with the future all-time rushing leader at Utah, John White IV. But the Utes fought, and they fought hard. Our scrappy defense forced turnovers when we needed them the most. Devonte Christopher made sensational catches all over the field against “five-star talent”, sometimes effortlessly. Utah just wouldn’t quit, despite the talent disparity and the overwhelmingly ear-deafening crowd of over 70,000 fans. The Utes gave USC all they could handle.
The Trojans roster featured future NFL players Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, and Marquis Lee, among others. Watching that talent level live was truly something to behold. Barkley wasn’t at his best because of Utah’s swarming and well coached defense, but it was still obvious that he was a future NFL quarterback. In hindsight, that The Utes were able to keep the game so close against an SC team that would eventually finish 10-2 and be ranked #1 to start the next season left me almost dumbfounded.
A good portion of the players on Utah were recruited from Southern California, many from the very area where the Coliseum was located. Reggie Dunn, a player from the inner city of Los Angeles, absolutely owned the Trojans on one of the most memorable plays of the game. In the third quarter, Norm Chow called an end around from about the 45-yard line. Jordan Wynn flicked the ball to Dunn who quickly cut through the stout Trojans defense. USC couldn’t compete with that play, and they struggled to stop the speedy wideout from Los Angeles as he streaked toward the end zone. Reggie Dunn was probably the fastest player on either roster, and it seemed crystal clear that he, like many other Utes from Los Angeles, had a chip on his shoulder. He wasn’t recruited by USC, but that day he carved out a 51-yard run that put Utah inside the 5-yard line, setting up a score that would bring Utah to within 3. Utah was in business.
With the score 14-17, Utah got the ball back. There was only 2:30 left on the clock in the fourth quarter. Jordan Wynn struggled to find receivers, but there are two passes that come to mind on that final, fateful drive.
The first was a dart to then then largely unknown freshman Dres Anderson across midfield. At that point, I could hardly stand to watch, but it seemed like Utah actually had a chance, and they exploited it. The Utes was forced into a 4th and 10 in Trojan territory, and Utah Fans held their breath as Jordan Wynn found Devonte Christopher right at the marker at the 38-yard line. Initially, the catch was ruled short, but after a challenge it was found that Christopher had the few extra inches needed to extend the game.
Things suddenly got interesting.
A pass interference call after the previous nerve-wracking Wynn to Christopher pass put Utah in field goal range. Coleman Peterson trotted out onto the field with the special teams unit and lined up in a tight formation to attempt the game tying, 41 yard field goal. The ball snapped, the holder placed it, and Peterson kicked it right into the arm of 6’7 lineman and future NFL player Matt Kalil. The SC sideline exploded and ran onto the field as Torin Harris ran the ball, untouched, the opposite direction and into the Utah end zone. Flags were thrown. Fans were wondering just what would be called.
“Excessive celebration” on USC. The game was over. Utah had just barely missed a chance to extend the game. I still remember Jordan Wynn walking out of the stadium, a dejected and disappointed look on his face as he ran his fingers through his mane of long brown hair. Jordan didn’t get a fair shake from the fans for that one performance, but he was a big part of the reason Utah had a chance to tie or even win the game.
What most fans didn’t know was that Jordan was far from 100%, having injured his shoulder toward the end of the previous season. He would never live up to his pre-injury potential, but he showed heart—at a champion level–in the first PAC-12 game ever played. All of the Utes did.
What is my point?
This game was an absolute classic. In fact, it was the first classic game in Pac-12 history, and it’s all too often forgotten. It had all the makings for a truly memorable football game, including as exciting a finish as you could ever hope to see in college football.
Utah didn’t come away with the win that day, but they proved that they belonged in the “Conference of Champions”, in one of the toughest, most intimidating environments in college football. It was obvious that they were deserving of their PAC-12 invite. Most importantly, they had the kind of heart, grit, and determination that would eventually make them a fixture in the conference, and a team that is now perennially feared. Since that day in September 2011, The Utes have defeated The Trojans three times, but never at the Coliseum. Perhaps 2021 will be the year they finally get to exorcise that demon. At this point, there is no doubt that they can compete at a high level in the Pacific-12 Conference, but truthfully, the best for Utah is still to come.
The Utes are entering their 11th season as members of the PAC-12 and before looking ahead to the 2021 season, a look back at the highs and lows of the prior 10 seasons is appropriate. I’m certain that each of us have memories of each season, but we can’t forget our inaugural season in 2011. The Utes approached their first PAC-12 football schedule with the high hopes of making a big splash. Featuring a defense loaded with future NFL players in Star Lotulelei, Derrick Shelby, Eric Rowe, Trevor Reilly and Brian Blechen, the Utes could go toe-to-toe with anyone on their schedule. Norm Chow began his lone season as our Offensive Coordinator with a veteran QB in Jordan Wynn, shifty running back John White, and a solid supporting cast featuring Devonte Christopher, Dres Andersen, Luke Mathews, Reggie Dunn and Dallin Rogers. The Utes believed they had enough offensive firepower to favorably compete in a stacked conference.
The schedule makers gave the Utes no breaks as they drew USC on the road in game 2 of the season. The Utes played a solid game and, in the final seconds, had a chance to tie the game and send it to OT with a long field goal. The kick, however, was blocked and scooped for 6 and the Utes lost 23-14. After demolishing BYU 54-10 in a game that has provided plenty of entertainment for Ute fans over the years, the Utes prepared to host Washington in the first PAC-12 home game. The euphoria of that first home game came crashing down on the opening kickoff as Ryan Lacy fumbled the ball close to the Utah Endzone, which was returned for a touchdown. Although the Utes marched down and tied the score at 7, from there they were outscored 24 to 7 and not only lost the game, but also lost QB Jordan Wynn to a season ending shoulder injury. The Utes would go on to lose their next two PAC 12 games to Arizona State and Cal. It was clear to those watching that while the Utes had the defense to compete, the area where they did not measure up was the offensive line. The Ute offensive linemen did not look like the offensive linemen from USC, Washington, ASU or Cal. The Utes finished the season running up 4 wins in a row against Oregon St., Arizona, UCLA and Washington State. They entered the season finale at home against a 2-10 Colorado team with a chance to win the right to play in the inaugural championship game. Instead, the Utes were flat and played perhaps their worst game of the year and lost 14-17. The Utes finished the 2011 season against Georgia Tech in an exciting come from behind 30-27 win in the Sun Bowl.
If the Utes held their own in 2011, they regressed in 2012 and 2013. Quarterback Jordan Wynn was lost to a career ending injury in a controversial overtime game at Utah State, and while they would bounce back the next week with a 24-21 victory over then 25th ranked BYU, they finished with a 3-6 record in the PAC and missed a bowl game for the first time in many seasons. The 2013 season played out much like the 2012 with the again not reaching a bowl game and going 2-7 in the PAC. Early season wins against Utah State and BYU and a dramatic win against No. 5 Stanford, the only real bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season, were not enough to stop fans and commentators from wondering whether Kyle Whittingham would be able to keep his job. 2014 was somewhat of a bounce back year for the Utes. An early season triumph on the road against Michigan was quickly forgotten the next week at home against Washington St., when the Utes jumped out to a 24-7 halftime lead only to have the Cougars roar back and beat the lethargic Utah team 28-27. Consecutive road wins against No. 8 UCLA and Oregon St. resulted in the Utes being ranked No. 19 and hosting 20th ranked USC. The game was an absolute slugfest and Utah pulled out the win with a memorable touchdown pass from Travis Wilson to Kaelin Clay with 8 seconds left in the game. The Utes went to ASU on a high but could not pull out the win in a hard- fought overtime loss to the Devils. The Utes followed that up with a loss to Oregon in the Kaelin Clay “take the ball all the way over the goal line” game. The Utes finished the season ranked No. 21 with a win over Colorado St. in the Las Vegas Bowl.
In 2015, The Utes took another step forward, finishing the season with a win over BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl and a No. 17 ranking. The season started in dramatic fashion with an exciting win over the Jim Harbaugh led Michigan in the home opener. The Utes throttled Oregon in Eugene 62-20 and entered the game at USC with a No. 3 ranking. The wheels fell off in a 24-42 loss to the Trojans, but the Utes bounced back to beat Oregon State and Washington before disappointing losses at Arizona and at home against UCLA. While the bowl win over BYU was welcome, 2015 left a bad taste in the mouths of coaches, players, and many fans. The Utes knew that they had allowed a great season to turn into only a good season by not playing up to their potential in disappointing late season losses to UCLA and Arizona.
2016 was very much like 2015. Although the Utes ended the season 9-4, ranked No. 23, with a win over USC and a bowl win over Indiana, the Utes lost some very winnable games against Cal, Washington and Oregon. At Cal, the Utes had innumerable tries inside the 10 to win the game but failed to do so. On the final try, Isaac Asiata pulled, and freshman Zack Moss had an open route to the end zone only to cut back and get hit short of the end zone. Moss would go on to become one of the great running backs in Utah Football History, but clearly failed to do what he was coached to do on the final play of the game. The Utes and the then No. 4 ranked Washington Huskies battled back and forth deep into the 4th quarter. Washington’s punt returner, Dante Pettis, scored on a 58-yard punt return to give the Huskies the lead with 3:25 left in the game. Utah players and fans saw several missed calls on the return and left the field upset and were greatly disappointed with the outcome. The Utes had everything going for them in the final home game of the season against Oregon. Oregon was a bit down and starting the young and mostly unknown freshman QB Justin Herbert. The Utes took the lead 28-24 with 2 minutes remaining in the game only to watch Herbert guide the Ducks down the field. Herbert connected with future Ute Darren Carrington in the back of the south end zone to give the Ducks the lead with one second left on the clock.
2017 was a season of transition. Kyle Whittingham fired longtime assistant and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick and hired Troy Taylor, famous for high octane offenses at Eastern Washington. In somewhat of a surprise, sophomore Tyler Huntley beat out returning starter Troy Williams in the battle to be starting QB. Unfortunately for Huntley and the Utes, he injured his shoulder in the fourth game of the season against Arizona. Williams played well in a home loss against Stanford and then had the Utes in position to win at USC but came up just short on a 2-point conversion as time expired. Ute fans will clearly remember that Williams missed a wide-open Darren Carrington, who was running along the back of the end zone. Ultimately, Williams failed to make it to the end zone himself. Huntley came back to start the remainder of the season, but never returned to his early season form and the Utes went 3-4 with a bowl win over West Virginia to finish the season unranked at 7-5.
The Utes started slowly in 2018, going 2-2 with losses to Washington and Washington State. The Utes made some key changes on offense, with Zack Moss producing and Tyler Huntley getting hot. The Utes scored 40 plus points four games in a row with wins over No. 14 Stanford, Arizona, USC, and UCLA, rising to No. 16 in the polls. They were then faced with a showdown at Arizona State, who historically had been a tedious foe for Utah. The Utes lost to ASU that day and also lost Huntley for the remainder of the season with a broken collarbone. With the season looking as if it was headed down the drain, freshman QB Jason Shelley led the Utes to impressive wins over Oregon, Colorado and to their first ever PAC 12 south championship. With the championship settled, Utah hosted BYU in the final game of the regular season. Trailing 27-14 entering the 4th quarter, running back Armand Shyne scored 2 touchdowns and Shelley added a final touchdown on a 33-yard scamper and the Utes had an improbable victory. Unfortunately for the Utes, the season ended with a disappointing loss to Washington in the PAC 12 Championship. The game was a great defensive struggle with the teams tied 3-3 late in the 3rd quarter. Jason Shelley threw a beautiful pass to Siaosi Mariner that went in and out of his hands and into the hands of a Washington defender for a pick six, which ended up being the difference maker. Utah received an invite to their first Holiday Bowl in San Diego. The game ended up being a tale of two halves. The first half saw Utah jump out to a 20 – 3 lead only to see them give up four turnovers and 28 unanswered points in the second half. Once again, the potential great season ended with losses and disappointment for the Ute faithful.
The Utes entered the 2019 campaign in uncharted waters as the favorite to win the PAC 12 South. Offseason changes had resulted in former OC Andy Ludwig returning to the Hill and expectations were high with seniors Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss recovered from injuries and anxious to get the Utes over the hump. The season started as expected with 3 out of conference wins leading up to the USC game. Statistically, the Utes beat the Trojans with 457 yards to 381, but the Utes failed to convert on several attempts in the redzone and fumbled away a potential go-ahead touchdown right before halftime. The 10th ranked Utes ended up losing 30-23 to the 24th ranked Trojans. From there, the Utes rattled off 8 consecutive wins leading to a South Division championship for a second straight year, a No. 5 ranking, and a matchup with No. 13 ranked Oregon in the championship game. A win against Oregon would give the Utes a shot at a berth in the College Football Playoffs or at a minimum, a place in the “Grandaddy of them all”, the Rose Bowl. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be as Oregon physically manhandled the Utes on both sides of the line of scrimmage and left with a 37-15 victory. The Utes would follow up that miserable performance with a surprising and incredibly disappointing 38-10 loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl.
Looking back at the past 10 seasons, I can say without reservation that I have never enjoyed Utah football more. Playing quality teams week in and week out has been exciting, and although the Utes have yet to finish a season in the way I would have wanted, they have demonstrated toughness, heart, determination, and grit. I remain hopeful that the Utes will continue to have a program worthy of supporting and that they will blast through the finish line as opposed to coming up short.
When Utah thumped Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in 2008, it was a validation of the Utah football culture – recruit athletes with a chip on their shoulder, who had often been overlooked by bigger name programs. This included Eric Weddle, Sean Smith, Stevenson Sylverster, Brice McCain, Brian Johnson, Freddie Brown… the list was long. Utah was the master at identifying and developing potential.
Two years later we hit the jackpot, were invited to the PAC-12, and, based on how we did against P5 teams, felt like we could step in and compete. And we did… before hitting a couple of lean years.
So, how did things look before we got the PAC-12 and after we’d been in it a few years?
In the MWC, you could circle a few games a year that were truly critical, and the other games we damn well better win. Sometimes those MWC wins were ugly, but we generally took care of business.
In the PAC-12, if you weren’t playing close to your potential – and denying the other team the same – you had a less than 50% chance of winning the game, regardless of how “bad” the team was. The margin for error was far more narrow.
In a practice, Urban Meyer told the 2004 Utes that our Ones could play with anyone in the nation, but the 2s and 3s were what separated (then) BCS teams from non-BCS league schools. That was coach-speak, but Meyer was absolutely right.
7 years later, we learned that getting up to play every team, every week, was not easy. We could coast in the MWC for many games, using our talent differential to win games where we weren’t operating at max efficiency.
Defensively, we could use the classic formula started by Fred Whittingham to get your best athletes on defense, where with an intense effort they could get off the field, get rested, and be ready to contain the opposing offense again. This defense was augmented by a run-heavy offense. Big Fred once observed that the best type of offense to compliment the Utah defense might be the Wishbone run by Air Force. Grind it out, eat the clock, keep the defense fresh…and rack up the wins.
In the PAC that formula was tested by offenses with quarterbacks and receivers who were good enough to play on Sundays, and against us they would consistently move the chains, no matter how intense our defensive effort was, how much we rotated the DL to stay fresh. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion laid a painful lesson on the Utes in SLC, doing a max-protect blocking scheme to give long routes time to develop, and getting the ball to Brandin Cooks over & over, in double coverage, dropping dimes and letting the NFL-bound Cooks make plays that just never happened in the MWC.
Every week presented a team that had players we used to try and recruit – and sometimes got – but also included coaching staffs who knew how to negate your strengths and exploit your weaknesses.
Don’t get me wrong – Utah did reasonably well in the PAC, even if everything was much tougher. We dug out from a couple of sobering 5-7 seasons, and step-by-step, improved, finally getting to the championship game, back to back.
Whittingham has matured as a head coach, becoming the longest tenured HC in our new league. His work ethic & step-by-step approach has resulted in a steady climb up the ladder after the first three years.
Are we “there” yet? Time will tell, every year in the past 6 or so has revealed new bricks in the wall to be inserted, and step-by-step, we’ve been slowly building, not taking anything for granted. Hell no. Anyone in this league can beat you, if you’re not on your A-game, or at least your B+ game. Anything lower than that, you’re gonna get beat.
The 2021 Utes are still very young – they got out of the abbreviated 2020 season exactly what they needed: practice and game snaps for a lot of very young, very talented players. With more talent coming in, do we have enough to make that last step and achieve a PAC championship?
– Mark Oberg