Andy Phillips

Former U.S. Alpine skier Andy Phillips stars for University of Utah football team

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U.S. Alpine skiing fans might take a particular interest in the University of Utah this season following its 30-26 opener win over Utah State on Thursday night.

The Utes’ standout was kicker Andy Phillips, a former U.S. Alpine skier who had never played competitive football before the opening kickoff. The redshirt freshman went 3-for-3 on extra points and on field goals, connecting from 45, 19 and 38 yards out.

The final two kicks came in the fourth quarter, putting Utah ahead and icing the game with 19 seconds left. He also converted an onside kick and earned the game ball, according to KSL.com.

“Oh man, what a thriller,” he told the Deseret News. “It’s just an honor being out there with these guys. These guys fight and they have a lot of faith in me.”

Think he felt pressure? Perhaps not. Phillips, 24, was an accomplished skier, having grown up on the slopes in Utah and spending five years on the U.S. Ski Team into 2011. Phillips earned a pair of third-place finishes in Nor-Am Cup races (2007, 2010) and was fifth in the slalom at the 2007 World Junior Championships.

Phillips also grew up playing soccer, easing the transition when he walked on in 2012.

“He’s a downhill racer,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham told the Deseret News. “You talk about toughness. He’s got some wipeouts on YouTube that are unbelievable.”

Phillips detailed to the newspaper how he picked up football after he decided to stop skiing:

“It actually all started with a family Thanksgiving football game where my brother and I were trying to beat each other out for longest field goal,” said Phillips. “Then all of a sudden a New Year’s resolution came that I should make a Pac-12 team and try and be a kicker. So I worked my guts out and (Utah special teams) coach (Jay) Hill gave me an opportunity and I just jumped on it.”

Phillips told Hill that he always wanted to play football and was given a shot last fall. He impressed Hill by having a “good pop” on the ball when he connected with it. In the spring, Hill said Phillips went through a period of refinement as they honed in on his technique.

Whittingham told ESPN he put as much pressure as he could on Phillips in preseason practice to simulate game situations.

“Whether it’s, Andy, if you make this kick, we’re not running. If we miss it, we’re running eight gassers or whatever the case may be, then, he’s responded in those situations,” he said.

Phillips said he gets the same thrill playing football as he did ski racing, but there is one very noticeable difference.

“Probably everyone just showering together,” he joked to ESPN. “In skiing, you travel with an elite group of people, 10 or 15 at the max, and so you’re in your own private place, in your own world. Here, everything’s exposed in the locker room.”

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Mikaela Shiffrin wrestles with doubt in seconds before World Cup downhill debut

Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States, skis during the third training run for the World Cup women's downhill ski race in Lake Louise, Alberta, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
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After a momentary panic in the start house, Mikaela Shiffrin raced to a tie for 18th in the first downhill of her World Cup career in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion who has also won a World Cup giant slalom, has been slowly adding the speed events of super-G and downhill to her repertoire the last two seasons.

“It wasn’t bad,” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com. “I certainly didn’t risk anything crazy.”

Her result Friday, 1.99 seconds behind Slovenian winner Ilka Stuhec, came after Shiffrin was 18th, 24th and 30th fastest in downhill training runs the previous three days. Shiffrin also had to wait several minutes in the start house as the racer before her crashed (video here).

“That was just a bummer,” Shiffrin said, according to the Denver Post. “I was like, ‘Just don’t let it affect you,’ but being up there for 10 minutes, like, ‘What happened? What’s taking them so long? What’s going on? Is she hurt?’

“Then I started doubting myself, like my technique going off the jumps, which is actually pretty good. I was going back and forth between, ‘Should I even be doing this? Maybe I just should pull out because I don’t want to kill myself.’ Then I’m like, ‘You’re absolutely fine, you haven’t felt sketched out a single time on this track in the past three days, so stick with that. You don’t have to go crazy.'”

“To be fast in speed there certainly needs to be a certain level of risk, and I know that, but now, if [giant slalom] and slalom are my main priority this season, I don’t need to be going crazy in a downhill with flat light and after I got iced [waiting so long],” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com.

Stuhec won Friday’s race by .22 of a second over Italian Sofia Goggia. Swede Kajsa Kling was third.

A race replay can be seen here. Full results are here.

Lindsey Vonn, owner of a record 18 wins at Lake Louise, is missing the annual World Cup stop in Alberta due to a broken arm from a November crash. Vonn had raced at Lake Louise each of the previous 15 seasons.

Last season, Shiffrin made her World Cup debut in the super-G at Lake Louise and finished 15th.

The women have another downhill Saturday and a super-G on Sunday in Lake Louise, both streaming live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app (schedule here).

MORE: Vonn eyes January return from her most painful injury

High-speed crash at World Cup downhill in Lake Louise (video)

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Swiss Joana Haehlen crashed into netting at high speed during a World Cup downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Haehlen, 24, lost her right ski after landing from a jump and sped uncontrollably off course. She braced for impact, slammed into red netting and was turned around before landing with neither of her skis still attached.

She lay on the snow while being attended to and eventually skied down the mountain on her own.

It caused a 10-minute delay before the next skier, American Mikaela Shiffrin, could take her run.

VIDEO: Vonn details the most painful injury of her career