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Defenses dominate as Utah squeaks past Stanford in overtime


What happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force? In the case of Utah and Stanford getting together, not much.

A defensive slugfest broke out on the Farm Saturday night to nobody's surprise, with the Utes eeking out a narrow 20-17 win in double overtime to beat the Cardinal for the second straight season.

The matchup between the Pac-12's top two defenses and worst pair of offenses was naturally a low-scoring affair that featured few first downs and even fewer big plays. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, who set a new FBS record for rushing yards a few hours earlier, nearly had more yards than the two teams combined up until a late-fourth-quarter drive by Stanford barely allowed the offenses to exceed Gordon's 408 yards.

Utah defensive end Nate Orchard had an impressive outing against a quality offensive line with plenty of NFL scouts looking on. He forced a fumble and recorded 3.5 sacks, bringing his season total to 16.5 and breaking the school's single-season record along the way. The big-time effort means he'll head into Sunday tied for first in the country in sacks. The Utah career record for sacks is 27. Orchard currently has 22, putting him within reach of that mark, too.

As tough as Orchard was to block, though, his Utes teammates on the offensive line had an equally tough time with Stanford defensive tackle Henry Anderson. He also forced a fumble, sacked quarterback Travis Wilson three times and recorded six tackles for loss in a monster game. His ability to shut down gaps also contributed to the Cardinal defense limiting running back Devonate Booker to just 54 yards on the ground.

The loss by Stanford was its fifth on the season, the most for the program since before Andrew Luck was taking snaps at quarterback. It will no doubt prompt some soul-searching for head coach David Shaw after his offense ground to a halt once again and he made a few questionable decisions late in the game.

As for Kyle Whittingham's squad, the Utes continue to build on their best season since moving to the Pac-12. While the offense was lackluster for most of the game, it did come through in overtime, and the grind-it-out style the team has been using has produced wins that might not be pretty but still count the same.

Make no mistake, though, this game wasn't pretty.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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