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No. 12 Utah Football Pulls Off Last-Minute Touchdowns to Glide Past Baylor

After a rough start, Utah’s Nate Johnson pulled the offense together to eke out the win.
The+University+of+Utah+Utes+take+the+field+for+their+matchup+against+the+USC+Trojans+for+the+Pac-12+Football+championship+at+Allegiant+Stadium+in+Las+Vegas%2C+NV+on+Dec.+2%2C+2022.+%28Photo+by+Jack+Gambassi+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Jack Gambassi
The University of Utah Utes take the field for their matchup against the USC Trojans for the Pac-12 Football championship at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, NV on Dec. 2, 2022. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

On Saturday morning, the Utah Utes arrived at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas to battle against the Baylor Bears. The Utes headed confidently into the game fresh off a huge win over the Florida Gators last week, while the Bears were looking for some redemption after their season-opening loss to Texas State last Saturday.

Recap

The first quarter got off to an intense start, with a delay of game penalty before the first snap adding 5 yards to Utah’s start. Running back Ja’Quinden Jackson rushed up the center, gaining five yards and getting Utah to the 31st. Quarterback Bryson Barnes followed suit, scrambling up the middle to gain another 10 yards. Jackson and Nate Johnson gained another 6 yards on the Utah line, before Baylor’s Gabe Hall helped knock the Utes back down another 2. Jack Bouwmeester punted 56 yards, but a touchback rendered it fruitless.

Baylor then started a drive of their own, but struggled to gain more than a dozen yards. The Bears’ moment in the spotlight concluded after punter Palmer Williams launched the ball out of bounds, handing the game back over to Utah. 

Another penalty was enforced prior to the punt, this time going to Baylor’s Alvin Ebosele after a false start. Towards the end of the play, Utah’s Mycah Pittman took a hard hit from Baylor’s Caleb Parker after returning 2 yards to the Utes, and was helped off the field by trainers. No penalty was called on Baylor. The first quarter concluded shortly after, with the score still sitting at 0-0.

The beginning of the second quarter saw another false start from the Bears, forcing them back to the Utes’ 24-yard line. Another false start from Ebosele pushed the Bears even further to the 29-yard line, bringing Baylor to a whopping eight false starts — they had six against Texas State last week — in less than two games.

Two minutes into the quarter, Baylor’s Isaiah Hankins attempted a field goal, earning the Bears the first three points of the game. The Utes then entered their first drive of the quarter but quickly earned their second false start of the game, courtesy of Miki Suguturaga. Jackson stepped in to rush 44 yards, earning Utah a first down, but a penalty on sophomore Michael Mokofisi stopped the momentum when it was called to replay the down.

After an injury on Baylor’s side, Utah’s Cole Becker stepped up to take a field goal, making good on the play and getting the Utes on the board with 3 points. With just over three minutes left in the half, Baylor’s Sawyer Robertson rushed 4 yards to the end zone, earning the Bears a touchdown before Hankins’ PAT kick brought them up to 10-3.

Another Utah drive saw Barnes complete a pass to Jackson, offering the Utes another first down before Jackson was injured on the play. No other plays were made, and the Utes went into halftime down by 7.

After a very physical first half, Baylor kicked off the third quarter with a good field goal from Hankins, pushing the Bears to 13-3. Jackson was able to step back in for Utah and rushed 12 yards, offering the Utes another chance at a first down. A series of incomplete passes from Barnes had the Utes struggling to push through, though Jackson was able to rush 9 yards before getting injured a second time.

Becker came up for the Utes for another field goal attempt, keeping Utah in the game and bringing the score to 13-6. An impressive pass from Barnes to Pittman sent the Utes up 11 yards, delivering another first down. The two teams headed into the final quarter as aggressive as ever, with the Utes just a touchdown short of catching up.

Even with the pressure on, Utah struggled to make a lot of progress at the start of the fourth. Barnes completed a 17-yard pass to Money Parks, earning a first down in the process, but more incomplete passes from the quarterback turned the drive over to Baylor. 

The defense showed up, keeping Baylor at a near-standstill. Johnson then came in for the Utes and advanced 9 yards, before being sacked and pushed back 5. He then sent a 17-yard pass down to Mikey Matthews, getting another first down. With just short of two minutes to go, Johnson rushed 7 yards and secured a touchdown for the Utes, with Becker stepping up for the PAT kick to bring the two teams to a tie at 13-13.

During an effort to cause an upset, the Bears earned another false start prior to a Utah timeout. Utah’s Cole Bishop intercepted a pass from Robertson, blocking the play from the Bears. The Utes made every possible play to reach the opportunity for a field goal, in hopes of breaking the tie and inching past the Bears. 

However, Jaylon Glover had other plans — sneaking past the defensive line, Glover rushed 11 yards to secure a touchdown, much to Baylor’s surprise. Becker delivered another field goal to launch the Utes up to 13-20. Despite a too-close-for-comfort last drive by the Bears, ending with an incomplete catch in the endzone, Utah finished the game on top.

Analysis

Overall a very physical game from both sides, Saturday’s match against Baylor saw an increasingly dramatic last quarter in an impressive display from Utah.

With Cameron Rising still unavailable, Barnes and Johnson felt the pressure to perform — and they certainly delivered: Barnes totaled 71 passing yards, with Johnson recording 82. Jackson topped the charts in rushing yards with a total of 129, dwarfing Baylor’s 77 from Dominic Richardson.

The Utah defensive line had a successful game, first with linebacker Levani Damuni recording eight total tackles — six solo — and with safety Sione Vaki claiming seven of his own. Bishop recorded only four total tackles, but showed up with a remarkable interception in the fourth quarter that proved to startle Baylor’s offense.

In total, Utah concluded the match with a whopping 377 yards, with Baylor taking 339. Utah also reached a higher number of plays and secured 20 first downs over 14 for the Bears. It took a while to get going, with the majority of Utah’s plays, first downs and yards coming in clutch in the last quarter.

The Utah Utes will return to Rice-Eccles Stadium next Saturday for Champions Weekend against the Weber Wildcats. The game can be streamed on Pac-12 Networks and is set to start at noon local time.

 

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@abbey0thomas

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About the Contributors
Abbey Thomas, Assistant Sports Editor
Abbey Thomas started at the Daily Utah Chronicle in the fall of 2022 as a Sports Writer and is now Assistant Sports Editor for the desk. She is currently studying Cultural Anthropology with a minor in history and hopes to pursue medicine one day. Abbey is a die-hard fan of Real Salt Lake and Manchester City, and loves to travel and practice photography in her free time!
Jack Gambassi, Photographer
Jack comes from Boise, Idaho and is a senior in the Honor's College majoring in economics with minors in Italian and chemistry. He is a pre-med student and hopes to go to medical school in the fall of 2024. Jack has been taking photos as a hobby since he was eight years old. After two years at the Chronicle, this will be his third and final year. A fun fact about Jack is that he speaks Italian.

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