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Championship Hopes Slip Away as No. 13 Utah Falls to No. 5 Washington

After a hard fought game, No. 13 Utah fell short of the No. 5 Huskies as hopes for another Pac-12 Championship title hung in the balance.
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Xiangyao Tang
Oregon quarterback Bo Nix (10) throws a pass versus the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

Coming off a much-needed 55-point win over Arizona State last week, it was time for Utah to show fans what they were really made of as they hit the road to take on No. 5 Washington in Seattle. Luckily for viewers, the match turned out to be an intense showcase of perseverance and skill that wouldn’t let up for all four quarters. But Utah ended up falling short, losing 28-35.

First Half

Utah kicked the game off on offense, ready to pack on the pressure to the Huskies. The Utes made some progress in their first drive, with Jaylon Glover coming in to gain 11 yards for the Red. Bryson Barnes made a promising pass to Devaughn Vele, but a pass interference from Washington stopped the play, handing Utah 15 yards as a penalty. The team landed at the Utah 20-yard line before the drive turned over to Washington, switching the Utes to defense.

Now on offense, the Huskies were prepared to show they weren’t going to be fazed by Utah’s pressure. Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., a candidate for the Heisman Trophy, only marked one incomplete pass as the Huskies dashed up the field, getting from the Washington 23-yard line to the Utah 12-yard line in a matter of three minutes. Penix Jr. snagged the first touchdown of the game shortly after, getting one up on the Utes at 0-7.

However, Utah decided they weren’t going to let the play get to them; instead, it was time to get more aggressive. Barnes cleaned up his passing game, finding Vele to complete a 41-yard dash to Washington’s 22-yard line. A few short passes to Landen King earned another 20 yards, and before long the Utes found themselves just shy of the endzone. To finish it off, Ja’Quinden Jackson rushed the last two yards to tie it up 7-7.

With Utah pushing back, Washington began to feel the heat and struggled to advance very far. Penix Jr. recorded several more incomplete passes than complete ones, and after numerous attempts to find the end zone the Huskies were forced to settle for a field goal. The first quarter ended with Washington slightly ahead at 7-10.

Coming into the second quarter, the Utes remained determined to not let the Huskies damage their positive mentality. Jackson was the key player during Utah’s first drive, where the running back completed 22 rushing yards with help from Barnes. Money Parks came through with a 15-yard run as well, pushing Utah up the field once more. Miki Suguturaga snagged the necessary 6-yard pass to make it another touchdown for Utah, with the Utes now up 14-10.

Now clear by this point in the game, neither team was ready to give in quite yet. Washington made a series of complete passes — one making it 28 yards — to brush past the Utah defense, finding the end zone relatively easily. The Huskies’ second touchdown of the game brought the score to 14-17, once again inching past Utah.

Needless to say, Utah didn’t want Washington to be up for very long — after a quick 11-yard pass to Parks, another pass from Barnes to Sione Vaki saw the safety dash 53 yards to grab another six points for the Utes. Cole Becker came through with the PAT kick, putting Utah back up at 21-17.

During the Huskies’ next drive, Washington wanted to take a lesson from Utah and tried their hand at a few long dashes. One pass earned them 28 yards, and a pass interference from Utah pushed the Huskies up to the Utah 28. Another 11-yard pass brought Washington within reach, and though the Utes put up a tough wall, Washington proved too strong and slowly but surely stepped over the end zone line, making it 21-24.

With only a few minutes left to go in the first half, Utah only had a handful of opportunities to get ahead of Washington, and to no one’s surprise, the Utes made use of them. If a 53-yard dash in their previous drive wasn’t long enough, another pass from Barnes found the hands of Vele, who then took it 68 yards down before being stopped right at the goal line. Jackson once again stepped up to finish the job, and the Utes ended the first half on top at 28-24.

Second Half

Heading into the second half, things got off to a slower start for both sides. Washington got close to the Utah goal line, but a series of penalties held them back and the Huskies once again had to settle for a field goal, stopping just short of Utah at 28-27.

During Utah’s drive, the Utes failed to accomplish any yards, and a confirmed targeting by Sione Fotu resulted in the linebacker being disqualified. As the game turned back over to Washington, a deep 33-yard pass from Penix Jr. helped the Huskies snag another touchdown, pushing ahead of Utah to sit at 28-34.

The next play by Washington proved to be an embarrassing mistake — after a pass from Barnes, the ball was intercepted by Alphonzo Tuputala but after a 76-yard run to the end zone, the ball was fumbled at the 1-yard line due to a premature celebration from Tuputala. However, the play wasn’t completely fruitless, and the Huskies were able to earn a one-point safety to bring them to 28-35.

The fourth quarter saw the least amount of action of the whole game, but it certainly had its moments. After a scoreless first ten minutes, and with Washington on the 4th and 12, the Huskies had the opportunity to take another field goal. Luckily for Utah, Connor O’Toole stepped in to block the attempt, keeping Washington at bay. Unfortunately, Utah’s efforts weren’t quite enough, and the Utes officially succumbed to the Huskies at 28-35.

Analysis

After three punts to start the game, both teams found their footing. Washington started with the lead, but Utah was able to keep up, taking their first lead early in the second quarter. The quarter would see five lead changes, but ultimately Utah had the lead at halftime.

Special teams had one of their best games of the season. A blocked field goal near the end of the game kept Utah in the game. But Utah’s stagnant offense was unable to get anything done.

The offense looked dominant in the first half, scoring four touchdowns and holding the lead at halftime. The second half was the opposite, with Utah failing to score a point. Barnes finished the game with 267 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Vele led the team in receiving yards with 145 yards on five receptions.

Utah will remain on the road next week, taking on No. 21 Arizona on Nov. 18. The game time is yet to be announced, but will be available on ESPN at 7:00 a.m. The Wildcats are currently 7-3, coming off of wins against Oregon State and UCLA.

 

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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!
Sean Overton, Sports Editor
Sean Overton is the Editor of the Sports Desk. He is currently a senior and is majoring in Business Administration with plans to attend law school.
Xiangyao Tang, Photo Director
Axe is a photographer and the photo director of the Daily Utah Chronicle. He is from China and is a senior majoring in computer science and minoring in digital photography. Axe joined the Chronicle in August of 2021. In addition to his position at the Chrony, he is also a photo intern for University of Utah Athletics. When he's not writing code, you will find him rock climbing, camping, skiing or hiking with his camera.

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