How Utah surrendered a three-touchdown halftime lead to lose to Washington
Utes showed signs of who they could be in the first half, but turnovers and defensive lapses cost them in the end
Utah found a painful way to lose a Pac-12 game Saturday night in Seattle.
At one point, the Utes were rolling along, having built an impressive 21-0 halftime lead.
But Utah surrendered 24 unanswered points in the second half as Washington rallied to beat the Utes 24-21 at Husky Stadium.
The Huskies completed the comeback when redshirt freshman quarterback Dylan Morris threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cade Otton with 36 seconds remaining in the game.
“There’s 60 minutes of football and we played 30 of them. We came out in the second half and didn’t get much done … You’ve got to put two halves together and finish the deal.” — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham
Utah’s subsequent last-ditch attempt to mount a potential game-winning drive was thwarted when Washington defensive back Trent McDuffie intercepted a deep pass by Ute quarterback Jake Bentley, who was making his first start at Utah, with seven seconds left on the clock.
“A lot of positive things in that game. The way we played in the first half was indicative of who we can be, but we didn’t finish,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “There’s 60 minutes of football and we played 30 of them. We came out in the second half and didn’t get much done … You’ve got to put two halves together and finish the deal.”
For the Huskies (3-0), it marked the first time they have rallied from a 21-point halftime deficit since 1988 against Cal.
“This is one of those games we’re going to be talking about years from now,” said first-year Washington coach Jimmy Lake.
Utah, meanwhile, is 0-2 for the first time since 2007.
As good as the first half was for the Utes, it was that bad in the second half.
So what happened?
From the opening kickoff in the second half, Washington seemed like a different team, scoring its first touchdown on its first drive of the third quarter with relative ease.
“Our defense allowed the Huskies to go right down the field on their first drive in the second half,” Whittingham said. “We didn’t play good football at all on that first drive. They went right through us and scored their first touchdown. In fact, the whole third quarter we didn’t play very well on defense. We gave up 17 points in the third quarter.”
What did Bentley see from an offensive standpoint?
“Not executing the way we can,” he said. “I don’t think anyone had a change of mindset or anything like that. It was a lack of execution. We’ve got to come back to practice and get it right.”
Then there were turnovers.
The Utes opened the season the previous week with five turnovers in a loss to USC and it coughed up the ball four more times Saturday.
“It was the same problem we had last week offensively, turning the ball over with four more turnovers,” Whittingham said. “When you play good teams like USC and Washington, you’re not going to win turning the ball over. The biggest difference in the game is four turnovers.”
In the third quarter, Bentley threw a pass intended for wide receiver Britain Covey that was intercepted by Elijah Molden. The Huskies capitalized on that miscue a few plays later when Peyton Henry booted a 26-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 21-10 with 7:21 remaining in the period.
“The decision I made to try to get it to Brit wasn’t very smart. It had a snowball effect on us,” Bentley said. “I’ve got to play better. We have to play better as a team, and we will. We’ll continue to build on the good things that happened in this game.”
Early in the fourth quarter, freshman running back Ty Jordan fumbled inside the Washington 20. The ball was recovered by the Huskies’ Zion Tupuola-Fetui, who picked up the fumble and returned it 28 yards.
Both of those turnovers changed the complexion of the game.
“Those were backbreakers. Those two certainly didn’t help our cause. I firmly believe we probably would have scored when Ty fumbled there in the red zone,” Whittingham said. “But he did some really good things for us. He’s an electrifying player. I’m sure Jake wishes he had that throw (to Covey) back.”
Utah had other opportunities to wrest control of the game. Earlier in the third quarter, Utah was stopped on fourth down at the Washington 41-yard line. Then moments later, the Utes watched their lead evaporate to 21-17 when Morris connected with Otton for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 2:49 remaining in the third quarter.
Washington 24, Utah 21
UTA, Jake Bentley 7-yard run (2:18), Jadon Redding kick
UTA, Devin Brumfield 2-yard run (7:55), Jadon Redding kick
UTA, Bryan Thompson 13-yard pass from Jake Bentley (0:42), Jadon Redding kick
WAS, Kamari Pleasant 2-yard run (12:01), Peyton Henry kick
WAS, Peyton Henry 26-yard field goal (7:21)
WAS, Cade Otton 21-yard pass from Dylan Morris (2:49), Peyton Henry kick
WAS, Cade Otton 16-yard pass from Dylan Morris (0:36), Peyton Henry kick
Utah’s defense came through again when defensive back Vonte Davis picked off Morris on a tipped pass and returned it 18 yards with 6:47 remaining. It was one of three Washington turnovers.
But the Utes’ next drive ended with another punt.
“We’ve got to continue to learn from our mistakes. Our defense is doing a great job of getting the ball back for us,” said Bentley, who completed 16 of 23 passes for 144 yards with one touchdown and one interception. “We’ve got to stop giving it back. That starts with me. It’s frustrating, for sure, because you feel like you let the team down.”
With 4:31 remaining, Washington took over on its own 12-yard line with a chance for a potential game-winning drive. The Huskies marched methodically downfield, culminating with the 16-yard TD catch by Otton from Morris, who completed 23 of 38 passes for 272 yards with two touchdowns and a pick.
The Utes struggled containing Otton, who caught eight passes for 108 yards and a pair of TDs.
“We just kept not matching up properly. We played primarily zone tonight. That tight end is a good player. He was their favorite target,” Whittingham said. “He had timely catches that moved the chains in critical situations.”
Linebacker Devin Lloyd said the defense wasn’t tired on that final drive, explaining that it needs to be more assignment sound.
“We’ve just got to find a way to get off the field and get the offense the ball back,” said Lloyd, who finished with a team-high 11 tackles.
On the night, Washington out-gained Utah in total offense, 360-359. But the Utes had the ball for nine more minutes than the Huskies. Utah rushed for 215 yards, led by Jordan’s 97 yards on 10 carries. Bryan Thompson had three catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.
For Utah, there were good signs, at least in the first half. But in the end, it was a painful defeat.
“There was definitely progress. Every day we get better,” Lloyd said. “The first half was indicative of what we can be. But we have to find a way to finish when it matters the most.”