Utah Football Rallies Against Arizona State With 28 Unanswered En Route to Comeback Victory


Jonathan Wang

University of Utah freshman cornerback Faybian Marks in a University of Utah football game against the ASU Sun Devils on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. (Photo by Jonathan Wang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cole Bagley, Sports Editor


After the performance witnessed in the first half, the game seemed all but lost as the Arizona State Sun Devils dominated the Utes and were controlling nearly every facet of the game with a 21-7 lead.

However, out of the locker room emerged a rejuvenated Utah football team and they completely flipped the game onto its head. Led by quarterback Cameron Rising and the Utah offense, the Utes scored 28 unanswered points en route to a dramatic and pivotal victory atop the Pac-12 South.

While the Utes would eventually take over in the second half, the Sun Devils came out hot with a statement drive to begin the game, moving the ball 75 yards with ease.

While they’ve normally punished teams all season long on the ground, quarterback Jayden Daniels went 6-8 passing on the initial drive, including a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jalin Conyers, who was wide open due to a missed assignment in the end zone.

On the ensuing drive, Utah responded impressively behind the efforts of Rising, who matched Daniels, going 4-5 for 53 yards and eventually called his own number on a 9-yard touchdown run.

Notably, multiple times throughout the drive, Rising kept it alive as he converted several third downs and effectively tied the game up 7-7 with 4:29 left in the first quarter.

But throughout the rest of the first half it was all Sun Devils as the run-game came to life and Utah didn’t have an answer. By halftime, the ASU running-room had accrued 131 yards on 20 attempts (6.6 average) and were getting whatever they wanted as the gaps were massive and the Utes struggled to make tackles.

Notably, Daniels also found success on the ground, rushing for a two-yard touchdown, giving the Sun Devils a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.

Following a few three-and-outs and an exchange of turnovers, ASU again marched right down the field, moving the ball 63 yards on six plays in just 2:28. Daniels would cap off the drive with a 15-yard pass to Curtis Hodges across the middle.

While Utah gave the impression they would respond, quickly finding themselves in Sun Devil territory with less than 30 seconds to go in the half, Rising would throw his second interception of the day as he underthrew Brant Kuithe near the 10-yard line. 

Upon regaining possession, ASU simply took a knee and a 21-7 lead into the locker room.

Into the second half, the Utes were a completely different team and it was time for #Thiccboi7 and Tavion Thomas to take over. On the very first drive, the Utes found the end zone as Rising completed a few passes and Thomas was a one-man wrecking crew, plowing through defenders and eventually crossing the goal line on a 7-yard touchdown run. 

Even though that would be his only score of the night, Thomas was absolutely pivotal in the victory as he took a majority of the carries and finished the night with 84-yards on 20 attempts (4.2 average).

After a quick three-and-out, Utah found itself in great field position thanks to a remarkable appearance by “video game” Britain Covey.

On a designed pass play for the former high school quarterback, Covey quickly realized the window to throw had expired, so instead, he tucked it, found a small seam, ran past a few defenders and set the Utes up nicely in Sun Devil territory.

Just a few plays later, Rising would cap off the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kuithe and suddenly they had a ballgame at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

While the offense was clearly holding up their end of the bargain, it was now time for the defense to do their thing, and they did not disappoint.

At first, the Sun Devils seemed destined to respond as they quickly moved the chains all the way to the Utah 20-yard line. However, thanks to a holding penalty and a nine-yard sack by Hauati Pututau, the Utes held ASU to a field goal which the kicker absolutely shanked and the score remained the same.

On the ensuing Utah drive, the Utes again found the end zone after several critical third down conversions and another touchdown pass to Kuithe, this time from 7 yards out. 

Simply put, after starting the game 8-18 for 107-yards and two interceptions, Rising had found his rhythm as he went 8-10 for 95 yards and two touchdowns to begin the second half and the Utes led 28-21 with just 11:49 left in the game. Notably, Rising would finish 21-33 for 247 yards and two touchdowns by the end of the night.

“[We] just came together in the locker room,” Rising said. “We know what we need to do. It’s not something that we’re running from. We have to attack this thing. We just talked about it and the defense did a great job of putting us in positions and we kept getting in positions to score.”

Needing another stop, the defense came out and gave the Utes exactly that, holding the Sun Devils to just one first down and forcing them to punt.

As the Utes regained possession, they could not have executed a better drive as they milked nearly seven minutes off the clock and sealed the game with a touchdown from T.J. Pledger that put the Utes up 35-21 with less than three minutes to go.

With so little time remaining and all the momentum on Utah’s side, Arizona State looked completely flustered as Daniels was dropped multiple times and the clock simply ran out on the Sun Devils after a true tale of two halves.

“Tell you what, we rallied together at halftime,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Those guys believed, those players believed — they were not gonna be denied. They came out, and it was twenty-eight to zip in the second half.”

Following the 35-21 victory over ASU, the Utes now have full control of the Pac-12 South as they are 3-0 in the conference and 4-2 overall.

Utah will now travel to Corvallis, Oregon for a matchup with Pac-12 North powerhouse Oregon State, who is also 4-2, but is 2-1 in the conference. The game is currently scheduled for next Saturday, Oct. 23 with a 5:30 p.m. MDT kick-off. It will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.


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