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Utah’s Defense Rebounds, Huntley Shines in 38-13 Victory over WSU

NCAA Football: Washington State at Utah Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Huntley established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the PAC-12, and Utah’s secondary proved to be the aggressive, ball-hawking unit we were promised they would be in a 13-38 wholloping against the Washington State Cougars.

WSU’s opening drive ended with a massive sack from John Penisini, after the Cougars failed to move the ball much outside of two big runs from running back Max Borghi. The Utah offense quickly took over with a 54 yard pass from Huntley to Bryan Thompson to put the Utes in the red zone, planting the ball at the Washington State 20 yard line, however the offense sputtered out in the resulting three plays, ending the drive with a missed 33 yard field goal attempt from Jason Redding.

The offensive woes continued for the Cougars, with quarterback Anthony Gordon completing a 14 yard pass to Dezmon Patmon, followed by a four yard completion to Devontavean Martin that was wiped away on the next snap thanks to a false start penalty that effectively ended the drive after series of incomplete pass attempts.

Jason Shelley entered the game to kick off Utah’s second drive, gaining 17 yards on the ground from a direct snap before Huntley took control with a pair of completions to Smason Nacua and Thompson to put the ball on the 34 yard line before taking off with a 20 yard run to put the Utes in scoring position. Devonta’e Henry-Cole capped off the drive with an 11 yard pass from Huntley, giving the Utes their first points of the game.

Gordon and Borghi were able to march down the field on their final possession of the first quarter with relative ease as Gordon found his groove through the air, completing five passes and looking more comfortable with the intermediate pass, while Borghi established his presence on the ground, ending the drive with a four yard touchdown pass Deon McIntosh to tie the game in the closing seconds of the quarter.

Within the first nine seconds of the second quarter, Huntley connected with a wide-open Samson Nacua for a 52 yard touchdown pass, followed by a successful extra point attempt from Redding to put the Utes back up, 7-14, just as Rice-Eccles saw the first signs of rain and lightning.

Not to be outdone, Gordon led the Cougars downfield with a 19 yard pass to Dezmon Patmon, and another 14 yard completion to Renard Bell before ending the drive with a 51 yard field goal from Blake Mazza that had just enough distance to clear the uprights by a hair, giving the Utes a 14-10 advantage.

As the rain started to dump, Utah’s offense turned to the ground with Jordan Wilmore and Devin Brumfield rotating carries between incomplete pass attempts from Huntley. A failed fourth and one conversion on the Washington State 39 yard line ended the drive with no points.

Despite improved play from Utah’s secondary, Gordon was able to connect with his receivers for chunk yards before a failed 4th and 10 attempt on the Utah 33 was extended thanks to a holding penalty from Josh Nurse that contributed to a successful field goal attempt to bring the Cougars within one. With three and a half minutes left in the half.

Huntley’s tear continued in the closing minutes of the half, finding Soloman Enis for 41 yards to keep the final drive of the half alive after suffering from a six yard sack to start the possession. A pass interference call kept the drive going after a failed 3rd and 10 attempt from WSU 26, opening the door for a 15 yard rushing touchdown from Huntley himself to put the Utes up 21-13 before heading to the locker room.

As the second half started, the weather had cleared and Huntley’s tear continued throwing for 32 total yards on back-to-back attempts before the offensive line opened up for Henry-Cole as he plowed through for a 13 yard run, placing the Utes in the red zone in just seven plays. Brumfield converted a critical 4th and 1 with a seven yard rush, followed by a rushing TD from Huntley that was negated due to an illegal shift penalty, putting the Utes in a 2nd and goal situation from the six yard line before a sack from Wazzu’s Daniel Isom pushed the offense back to the 10 yard line, ending the drive with a 28 yard field goal from Redding, extending Utah’s lead to 11.

After Utah’s opening drive chewed up nearly half the third quarter clock, Jaylon Johnson ushered the Utes offense back onto the field with an interception of the evening, and the offense continued to bully its way down field, thanks to a pair of big receptions by Jaylen Dixon that totaled 24 yards, helping wipe away the damage done by a 15 yard penalty on the WSU 28 yard line. Brumfield’s back-to-back rushing attempts put the Utes on the seven yard line, when Derrick Vickers muscled into the end zone, giving Utah a 13-31 lead.

As the third quarter began to wind down, and continuing on to the start of the fourth, the Washington State offense was weighed down by a litany of mental mistakes and penalties. Despite this, Gordon and Borghi were able to move the chains, earning five first downs on their second possession of the second half, however, Utah’s defense came up big as Julian Blackmon stopped Borghi two yards short of the end zone on a failed 4th and goal attempt, allowing the Utes to take over with 9:14 left on the clock.

With 5:45 left in the game, Utah’s offense failed to collect a single first down on their eighth drive of the evening, forcing Ben Lennon on to the field for the first Utes punt of the game, giving Wazzu possession on their own 47 yard line. Gordon’s first (and what would be his only) pass attempt of the drive was intercepted by Francis Bernard and returned 22 yards, essentially sealing the victory late for the Utes.

In their final drive of the game, Henry-Cole was able to chip away yardage, and was aided by a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when WSU’s Justus Rogers violently threw Henry-Cole to the ground after the play was blown dead, allowing the drive to stay alive, and giving Huntley his second rushing TD of the evening from three yards out.

Next up for the Utes is a much needed bye week before traveling to Corvallis, Oregon to take on the 1-3 Beavers of Oregon State on October 12th.