Heading into Saturday afternoon’s game, both the University of Utah football team (5-5 overall, 2-5 Pac-12) and Washington State (9-2 overall, 6-2 Pac-12) were looking to leave victors. With the season winding down, the Utes were looking to become bowl eligible and the Cougars were hoping to keep their Pac-12 Championship hopes alive. Washington State kept those hopes alive as it beat Utah 33-25 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“That’s a good offense and when you hold them to the numbers we did, you’d expect you’d have a chance to win,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “But again, most important stat in football isn’t the score, it’s the turnover margin and we were on the wrong end of that by a long shot.”
Utah turned the ball over a total of seven times (four interceptions and three fumbles) compared to Washington State’s two turnovers (both interceptions). Those stops were something the Utah defense took pride in though, especially defensive back Corrion Ballard, who intercepted a Cougar pass less than three minutes into the second half.
“It was fun, especially being a DB,” Ballard said. “You dream about games like this, all-passing teams.”
“Sack Lake City” got a taste of its own medicine against the Cougars. Tyler Huntley was sacked seven times by the end of the game. Although he led the way on the ground with 20 carries for 51 yards while throwing for 305 yards on 21-of-39 including one touchdown, he also had three of Utah’s four interceptions.
Utah struggled to take care of the ball right from the get go and Washington State capitalized on the Utes’ mistakes that included three turnovers in the first quarter alone.
Those turnovers included a Demari Simpkins fumble which resulted in a Washington State touchdown, an interception from Huntley and another Huntley error — this time a fumble — on the subsequent possession. Despite the lack of execution from Utah, the Cougars were only able to put up 13 points in the first quarter. A big reason why was because the Utah defense put up a fight.
“It could have very easily gotten out of hand in the first half,” Whittingham said. “But our red zone defense was tremendous.”
Utah finally put points on the board in the second quarter off a 56-yard field goal by Matt Gay and a 2-yard rushing touchdown by Zack Moss, but the team went scoreless in the third, playing similar to how it opened the game. Even though the defense was without Chase Hansen and Sunia Tauteoli, and during the game Kylie Fitts and Casey Hughes left and didn’t return, it still put on a better performance than the offense that was without wide receiver Darren Carrington II. Utah’s defense held WSU to two field goals that quarter.
Eyeing a comeback, the Utes had two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, a 1-yard touchdown run by Moss, which was capped off with a 2-point conversion between Huntley and Siale Fakailoatonga, and a 12-yard pass from Huntley to Raelon Singleton, but it wasn’t enough for a Utah victory. Sandwiched in between those two Utah drives, the Cougars added another touchdown to end what finished as a one score game, 33-25.
“Yeah we lost, but we’re not going to lay down. We’re going to stay up and keep fighting,” Simpkins said. “Next week is just another opportunity to get bowl eligible for our seniors. That’s all we’re worried about right now.”