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Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley draws praise as one of the bright spots in Utes’ loss at USC

Senior among national leaders in completion percentage, Utes fall to 19th in polls.

Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley calls out to teammates at the line of scrimmage, against Southern California during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley enters the week ranked sixth in the nation in completion percentage. The senior is connecting at a .762 clip, completing 64 of 84 passes for 812 yards and five touchdowns.

The senior is drawing plenty of praise as the 19th-ranked Utes prepare for Saturday’s game against Washington State at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

“I’m glad Huntley is an old person. I don’t want to see him again,” USC coach Clay Helton said after Friday’s 30-23 win over Utah in Los Angeles. “He is a special player and he’s going to be playing for a while.”

Helton added that the Trojans did enough to win a huge ballgame against a very good team. Huntley was a bright spot for the Utes on a night when penalties, poor secondary play and a fumble near the goal line proved costly.

In his postgame remarks, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said that he “thought Tyler played well.” Huntley completed 22 of 30 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown. Although sacked for the first time this season — ultimately going down twice by game’s end — he’s yet to throw an interception through four games.

Despite losing running back Zack Moss to an early injury, Huntley directed an offense that netted 457 yards and 27 first downs in the loss to USC. The bottom line, though, didn’t sit well for obvious reasons.

“We all know the plays were there,” Huntley said. “We just had to make them.”

There may be a premium to do so this week when Washington State comes to town. The Cougars racked up 720 yards of total offense in a shocking 67-63 setback to UCLA last Saturday night. Quarterback Anthony Gordon set a Pac-12 record with nine touchdown passes.

It’ll be quite a test for a Utah defense that struggled against the pass at USC. The Utes gave up 368 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Michael Pittman Jr. made 10 catches for 232 yards.

“This week we get to redeem ourselves,” said Utah safety Julian Blackmon.

It remains to be seen if the same holds true for the national rankings, at least in the short term. After coming up short at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Utes dropped from 10th to 19th in the Associated Press Top 25. They’re also No. 19 in the week’s Coaches poll.

Washington State (3-1, 0-1) at No. 19 Utah (3-1, 0-1)

Rice-Eccles Stadium

Saturday, 8 p.m.

TV: FS1

Radio: ESPN 700AM