SALT LAKE CITY – The University of Utah football program fell to the Washington State Cougars on Saturday night 33-25 after being plagued by turnovers throughout the game. The Utes are 5-5 overall this season and 2-5 in Pac-12 play.
Washington State scored 23 of its 33 points off Utah turnovers, ultimately causing the Utes’ demise. The Utes were able to cut the Cougar lead to eight points with 6:19 left in the game, but Washington State was able to force two interceptions in the final two minutes that included a hail mary, picking up the eight-point victory.
Despite the turnovers, Tyler Huntley finished the game with 305 passing yards going 21-for-39 (3 INT, 1 TD), his third 300-yard passing game this season in front of the Utes 50thstraight sellout of Rice-Eccles Stadium. Huntley also added 51 yards on the ground.
“I thought our defense was lights out,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Washington State averaged less than four yards a play. It was not enough to overcome seven turnovers. Certainly going minus four in that area, you cannot win.”
Demari Simpkins had a career-high 99 receiving yards on four catches, including a career-long 71-yard reception with Raelon Singleton adding 87 yards on six catches (1 TD). On defense, the Utes held Washington State to just 27 rushing yards and just 3.9 yards per play while Donavan Thompson racked up a career-high 12 tackles.
On special teams, Matt Gay scored his fifth 50-plus yard field goal of the season, tying his career-long of 56 yards in the second quarter, which ties for the longest field goal in school history.
The Cougars took a 7-0 lead on an 11-yard pass from Luke Falk with 9:31 on the clock in the first quarter, ending a 46-yard, nine-play drive after Utah fumble. After an interception on the next Utah drive, Washington State was forced to settle on a 44-yard field goal after tight coverage by the Utah secondary kept them out of the end zone.
Utah’s second fumble of the game led to Washington State’ second field goal of the first quarter as the Cougars knocked in a 32-yarder to take a 13-0 lead with 3:49 remaining in the quarter. The scoring drive took 1:16 off the clock for just four plays and four yards.
It was the Utah defense that stepped up on the next Washington State offensive drive when they forced two incomplete passes with breakups by Kavika Luafatasaga and Thompson, forcing Washington State to attempt another field goal. The Cougars went for a 38-yarder, but missed wide right, giving Utah the ball back on their own 21-yard-line.
The Utes got on the board with 11:19 left in the second quarter when Gay knocked in a 56-yarder. The 56-yard field goal cut the Washington State lead to 13-3, putting an end to the 11-play, 41-yard drive.
The momentum continued to go in Utah’s direction as they narrowed Washington State’s lead to just three points with 8:29 remaining in the second quarter. Thanks to a 71-yard pass from Huntley to Simpkins, the Utes found themselves in scoring territory. Zack Mossdrove home the two-yard rushing touchdown to make it 13-10, ending a three-play, 80-yard drive.
The Ute defense continued to put up big hits, including a strong tackle from Kenric Youngon Falk at the Utah two-yard-line, but unfortunately, Falk was able to capitalize on an open receiver on the next play, scoring on a one-yard pass. The Cougars took a 20-10 lead with 3:02 left to play in the second quarter, ending an 11-play, 75-yard drive that took 5:27 off the clock.
Corrion Ballard opened the third quarter with his second interception of the season, returning it 35 yards to put Utah in good field position, but Huntley threw his second interception of the game on the next play to relinquish possession. Utah’s defense held the Cougars to their third field goal of the game as they converted on a 28-yarder to end a four-play drive to make it 23-10 with 10:55 left in the quarter.
Washington State kicker Erick Powell continued putting up points for the kicker as he hit a 33-yard field goal with 6:15 left in the third quarter, giving the Cougars a 26-10 lead. It ended a 10-play, 44-yard drive that burned 2:56 off the clock.
Utah’s offense got back on the scoreboard with 13:40 left in the fourth quarter when Moss punched through the defensive line for a one-yard rushing score on the heels of a seven-play, 43-yard drive. The Utes went for two with Huntley finding Siale Fakailoatonga for the conversion to cut the Washington State lead to 26-18.
The Utes were able to keep the Cougars out of the end zone for the next four minutes, but eventually Washington State snuck in a 6-yard passing score to take a 33-18 lead with 8:23 left in the game. It was a result of another fumble by the Utah offense, leading to the five-play, 14-yard scoring drive.
Utah was able to answer quickly when Huntley found Singleton in the end zone who was able to pull down the 12-yard catch under pressure. It cut the Washington State advantage to 33-25 with 6:19 remaining in the game to end a six-play, 75-yard drive.
On the next Washington State drive, Young came up with a huge interception to get the ball back. The Utes drove to the Washington State 48-yard-line, but the Utes third interception of the game ended the possession with 58 seconds left in the game. After the Cougars went 3-and-out, the Utes had one last effort toward the end zone, but it was picked off, sealing the 33-25 victory for the Cougars.
“We are 5-5 with two more chances,” Whittingham said. “We have a tough road game in Seattle with a team that will be ticked off after being beat last night. Then we have the last game here and we are fully aware we need to find one to get these seniors to a bowl.”
Utah returns to action on Saturday, Nov. 18 when they head to Seattle, Wash. to take on the Washington Huskies in its final road game of the season. The start time will be announced this week.
Stats: WSU 33, Utah 25
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