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Utah squanders impressive first-half performance against Washington

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Utah quarterback Jake Bentley (8) keeps the ball against Washington during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Seattle.

Ted S. Warren, Associated Press

Well, Utah’s start Saturday in Seattle couldn’t have gone much better.

The Utes dominated Washington in the first half and raced to a 21-0 lead at intermission.  

Unfortunately for Utah, there was a second half — and the Huskies rallied for a 24-21 victory at Husky Stadium. 

Before that second-half collapse, senior quarterback Jake Bentley, who was making his first start at Utah, completed eight of his first nine passes and picked up crucial yardage with his feet in the early going.  

Meanwhile, the Ute defense held the Huskies to just 35 yards of total offense midway through the second quarter as Utah made life miserable for Washington freshman quarterback Dylan Morris. 

Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley disguised coverages and confused Morris in the first half. 

Utah freshman cornerback Faybian Marks recorded a first-quarter interception and nearly had a pick six in the second quarter. 

Bentley, who started 33 games for South Carolina prior to his transfer to Utah, was voted as a team captain in October. In the first half Saturday, his experience and poise proved to be a calming influence for a young team. 

In the first half, Bentley was 9 of 11 for 87 yards and a touchdown and he ran for another TD. Bentley’s ability to run seemed to catch Washington off guard. 

Bentley, who had never rushed for more than 47 yards in a game in his career, gained 39 yards on six carries in the first half. 

Meanwhile, coach Kyle Whittingham talked all week about getting the ball into the hands of dynamic freshman running back Ty Jordan. 

Against the Huskies, Jordan ran five times for 60 yards in the first half, including a 46-yard scamper that set up a 2-yard touchdown by Devin Brumfield to lift the Utes to a 14-0 lead. 

Utah Washington scoring sum

Scoring summary:

Washington 24, Utah 21

First quarter

UTA, Jake Bentley 7-yard run (2:18), Jadon Redding kick

Second quarter

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

Third quarter

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

Fourth quarter

WAS, Cade Otton 16-yard pass from Dylan Morris (0:36), Peyton Henry kick

Near the end of the second quarter, Bentley threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Thompson in the back corner of the end zone to put the Utes up 21-0. 

Even the half ended well for Utah. On the final play of the second quarter, walk-on safety Zemaiah Vaughn picked off a Hail Mary pass deep in Washington territory that he returned 73 yards. 

In the first half, Utah gained 221 yards of total offense and limited Washington to 146. 

The Utes were 4 of 7 on third-down conversions and they also converted on a fourth-and-four on their second possession as Bentley ran for 8 yards. Later on that drive, Bentley scored on a 7-yard TD run to give Utah a 7-0 advantage with 2:18 left in the first quarter. 

Also in the first half, junior Britain Covey made his season debut after sitting out last week’s season opener with a hamstring injury. Covey returned a couple of punts in his first game since September 2019. 

Covey suffered a knee injury in the 2018 Pac-12 championship game against Washington. After rehabbing, he returned last season but he shut things down after four games and decided to take a redshirt year because he was still hampered by his knee. 

But in the second half, Washington mounted a remarkable comeback to beat the Utes.