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3 takeaways from No. 18 Utah’s 7-point loss to No. 5 Washington

SHARE 3 takeaways from No. 18 Utah’s 7-point loss to No. 5 Washington
Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze (1) can’t make a catch in the end zone against Utah cornerback Zemaiah Vaughn (5) Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023

Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze (1) can’t make a catch in the end zone against Utah cornerback Zemaiah Vaughn (5) during the first half of a game Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Seattle.

Lindsey Wasson, Associated Press

The 18th-ranked Utah football team put up a fight in its outing against fifth-ranked Washington Saturday afternoon in Seattle, but the Huskies responded to trailing 28-24 at halftime by scoring 11 unanswered points to top the Utes 35-28 in the Pac-12 showdown.

The Utes have experienced a couple of see-saw weeks with a lopsided loss to Oregon and a lopsided win over Arizona State before the crusher against Washington. They’ll look to regroup but will have to do it on the road, as they are at No. 21 Arizona next weekend.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s game.

Second quarter fireworks

After a semi-flat first quarter, the Utes and Huskies produced five lead changes in the second quarter for a 28-24 halftime score.

Utah mixed up its tempo and saw Bryson Barnes toss two touchdowns and Ja’Quinden Jackson run for another to give the Utes the lead heading into the locker room.  

The Utes’ passing game opened up the field, with Barnes finding Miki Suguturaga for the first score. He then answered the Huskies’ efforts with a short toss to set up Sione Vaki, who rolled down the field for 53 yards into the end zone.

Jackson added his second touchdown of the day from seven yards out to close out the scoring frenzy from both teams. 

Both teams’ offenses had great success in the second quarter, while neither’s defense found a groove. Utah’s offense looked to be confident and rolling, but the halftime break didn’t help as the Utes were shut out in the second half.

Turnovers and strange plays

The first two turnovers in the game came on the same drive in the third quarter in what proved one of the stranger plays of the college football season.

Barnes’ pass was tipped and intercepted, resulting in Alphonzo Tuputala looking like he was well on his way to a pick-six.

But Tuputala dropped the ball at the 1-yard line after carrying it 76 yards down the field and 320-pound Utah offensive lineman Michael Mokofisi jumped on it for the fumble recovery. It was a jaw dropping series of plays for fans with Utah getting the ball back.

But, the momentum quickly shifted back to the Huskies, who surrounded Jackson as he tried to get out of the end zone on the ensuing drive.

The result was a safety to put Washington up 35-28. Washington had regained the lead early in the quarter after a field goal and touchdown.

Both teams had key penalties in the game, including an offensive pass interference call with Utah moving the ball later in the game. For Washington, it was fourth down penalties that turned conversions into punts and prevented them from putting more points on the board.

Washington’s second-half efforts proved key

The Huskies were outdueled by Utah in the first half but found their groove both on offense and defense in the second half.

The Huskies put up 11 points in the third quarter and leaned on their defense to keep Utah scoreless in the final two quarters .

While Utah had done a good job containing Washington star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. as much as any team can through halftime, the pesky and talented signal caller kept gnawing away at Utah’s defense to set up the Huskies for a field goal and touchdown to go ahead. 

Penix Jr. finished with two touchdowns on 332 yards passing and no interceptions.

Meanwhile, Washington was able to break through Utah’s line and pressure Barnes all through the second half, eventually forcing another interception in Utah’s last ditch effort on 4th and 10 with the clock winding down.