With starting quarterback Cameron Rising out, running back Tavion Thomas not traveling with the team and tight end Dalton Kincaid leaving the game with an injury, Utah secured its first win in Pullman since 2011 on Thursday night, beating Washington State 21-17.

Here are three takeaways from Utah’s win:

Bryson Barnes steps in and manages the game well

Though he traveled with the team, Rising was a scratch and did not play a snap in the win. Backup quarterback Bryson Barnes, a former walk-on from Milford who was called upon when Rising was knocked out of the Rose Bowl last season, played the entire game for the Utes.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said that Rising practiced all week and Barnes was told pregame that he would be starting.

Barnes managed the game well, didn’t make any major mistakes and had a few big throws in a gritty performance at quarterback.

Related
Highlights, key plays and photos from No. 14 Utah’s 21-17 win over Washington State

He finished 17 for 27 for 175 yards and a touchdown with a quarterback rating of 129.6.

His touchdown pass to Dalton Kincaid in the third quarter made the difference in the game, and he showed that he could place a ball well on a 31-yard pass to Money Parks on 3rd and 4 in the third quarter.

Barnes’ best drive was on Utah’s final touchdown. He ran for 28 yards on 3rd and 4 to keep the drive alive, and threw a great ball to Jaylen Dixon on 3rd and 16 a few plays later. He capped it off with the 5-yard touchdown pass to Kincaid.

Barnes also had a 10-yard completion on 3rd and 9 on Utah’s last drive to keep it alive and prevent the Cougars from getting the ball back.

It wasn’t a perfect game from Barnes, but considering the circumstances, it was an incredibly gusty performance in a tough situation.

Defense stands strong in the fourth quarter

Utah’s defense turned in a good performance and was key to the win.

The Utes dialed up the pressure on WSU quarterback Cameron Ward at key times, sacked him four times and forced a fumble.

Utah’s offense did not score in the fourth quarter, and after Ward led the Cougars down the field for a touchdown to start the period, making it 21-14, a bad exchange between Barnes and running back Ja’Quinden Jackson gave the Cougars the ball at the Utah 37-yard line with eight minutes left.

The Cougars got a fresh set of downs at the Utah 21-yard line but couldn’t get past the sticks. Cole Bishop was all over Ward’s pass to Robert Ferrel on 2nd and 7, sticking him for a loss of two, then the Cougars had a false start of 3rd and 9, making it 3rd and 14.

On 3rd and 14, Clayton Isbell hurried Ward, forcing an incompletion.

WSU had to settle for a field goal, then tried an onside kick with 4:45 left, which was recovered by the Utes, and Utah’s offense was able to run the clock out on its final drive.

Injuries loom large

The big question heading into next week’s game against Arizona will be the availability of Utah’s key players.

It starts with Rising, who has been the leader of the team and has been the key to the Utes’ offense success this season.

Tight end Kincaid leads the team in receiving yards with 558 and has been Rising’s favorite target this year. He went to the injury tent after the touchdown catch late in the third quarter (Utah’s other primary tight end, Brant Kuithe, is out for the season).

Leading rusher Tavion Thomas didn’t travel with the team and the No. 2 back, Micah Bernard, saw limited action, only carrying the ball three times for a yard.

Utah is still in the hunt for a repeat trip to the Pac-12 title game, but it will be a very tough road if its key contributors are out.