Utah grabs much-needed bowl win for Pac-12

Utah holds off Indiana to win Foster Farms Bowl (2:03)

Utah wins its fourth straight bowl game with a 26-24 victory over Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl. (2:03)

The Pac-12 badly needed a dose of Joe Williams and Sack Lake City.

It certainly wasn't pretty, but both crucial components of Utah's winning formula came through, pushing the Utes to a 26-24 victory over Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl.

Williams gashed Indiana's normally sturdy run defense to the tune of 222 yards on 26 carries -- an average of 8.5 yards per rush. He blasted through holes, spun out of tackles and knifed through the open field to help Utah overcome its inefficient passing game and four ugly turnovers.

Williams' 36-yard scamper on third-and-7 set up Andy Phillips' go-ahead field goal with 1:24 left. The Utes' lethal pass rush then shut the curtain, as Filipo Mokofisi's sack and Kavika Luafatasaga's pressure stifled Indiana's last gasp.

Utah finishes the season 9-4, tacking a winning note onto a regular season that finished with disappointing losses to Oregon and Colorado. Coach Kyle Whittingham is now 10-1 in bowl games, giving him the highest postseason win percentage in college football history among coaches who have won at least 10 bowl games, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

But the biggest winner of the night may have been the Pac-12 conference.

Beyond College Football Playoff qualifier Washington, there has been plenty of struggle to go around the league this season. A year after fielding a record 10 bowl-eligible teams, the Pac-12 couldn't even fill the entirety of its allotted postseason spots in 2016.

Washington State, the first of the league's six postseason participants, laid an egg in its 17-12 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night. The Cougars were in Pac-12 title contention until the final weekend of the regular season, so their loss to a team that would've finished fourth in either of the Big Ten's two divisions didn't help the league's reputation.

When Utah trailed a 6-6 Indiana team late in the fourth quarter, the Pac-12's reputation was in danger of suffering another painful blow. The Utes were considered an upper-tier Pac-12 team in this down year for the league, and a loss to a very middling Big Ten opponent -- which would have been Indiana's first bowl win since 1991 -- would not have been pretty in the larger picture.

Aside from trying to get back in the postseason win column, the Hoosiers were looking for a win in new head coach Tom Allen's first game. Allen took over after Kevin Wilson resigned about a month ago. Indiana capitalized on Utah's turnovers to fight back from a 17-7 deficit and grab a 24-23 lead on Devine Redding's touchdown run in the fourth quarter, finding a nice balance between the run game and quarterback Richard Lagow's timely throws on that drive.

But Williams took over down the stretch of his final career game to prevent that scenario from materializing. He continued the rampage that he started ever since coming out of retirement on Oct. 15, logging his sixth game of 149 yards or more in that span.

And despite their own offensive sloppiness, the Utes created their usual chaos on the defensive end. Utah forced three Indiana turnovers, including two fumbles on hard hits, to set the table for Williams.

The Utes have now generated 62 takeaways since the start of 2015, the most in the nation.

So although this triumph certainly did not earn too many style points, it didn't need to. That's just how Utah operates, and that's just what the Pac-12 needed to maintain respectability heading into the rest of bowl season.