In my pregame prediction, I said that this game would come down to the foot of Peyton Henry. Well, that’s exactly what happened, however not at all the way I meant it. After leading for most of the game, Washington found themselves down by two scores late in the fourth quarter. An ugly but successful 19 play(!) drive ended with a touchdown catch by Aaron Fuller and brought the Huskies to within 5 points with 1:01 left to go in the game. The Huskies needed to recover an onside kick to have any hope of getting one more touchdown for the win. Unfortunately, Henry’s kick was too hard and was recovered by Utah, effectively securing Utah’s 33-28 win over Washington in Seattle.
Washington’s offense got off to a great start in this game. In 13 plays on their opening drive, the Huskies were able to score when QB Jacob Eason hit WR Jordan Chin for a 9-yard touchdown. After Eason fumbled deep in Washington territory on their next possession, which Utah turned into a field goal, Washington responded with another scoring drive. This time, Eason hit TE Hunter Bryant on a 34-yard touchdown pass to give Washington an early 14-3 lead in the second quarter.
But then came the Utes. Utah QB Tyler Huntley played a great game, throwing for 284 yards and one touchdown on 19/24 pass attempts. He completed several clutch throws on critical third downs and also ran for one touchdown. Washington was able to sack Huntley four times, but all of those came in the first-half. Late in the second quarter Huntley hit RB Zach Moss for a 9-yard touchdown pass, bringing Utah to within four points of Washington. On their final drive of the half, Washington went for it on fourth and one from Utah’s 45, but TE Devin Culp dropped Eason’s pass. The turnover on downs was a big momentum swing for Utah, leading to kicker Jadon Redding hitting a 32-yard field goal as time expired to end the opening half down by one.
With the game still close at the start of the third quarter, Washington’s offense looked good, driving down to the Utah 25 in 8 plays. However, on the next play Eason made a poor decision by throwing into triple coverage and was picked off by Utah CB Julian Blackmon. On a night when Eason had a new career high in pass attempts (29/52), he also had maybe his ugliest game as a Washington Husky. He had already turned the ball over twice and gave Utah an easy 3-points while depriving Washington of some likely points early in the second half. But there was still more game to play. After Washington’s defense forced a three-and-out on Utah’s next possession, Eason lead another scoring drive that was capped off by a 40-yard pass to Hunter Bryant, his second of the game. 21-13, Washington.
At this point, momentum really started to swing Washington’s way. Utah fumbled on their next two offensive possessions, both of which were recovered by the Huskies. However, disaster struck for the Dawgs three plays after recovering that second fumble. Eason threw a second critical interception to Utah CB Jaylen Johnson, who took it to the house for a pick-six. Washington was able to stop a two-point conversion attempt by Utah thanks to a great hit from ILB Jackson Sirmon right at the goal line, but Utah still narrowed Washington’s lead to just two points.
Early in the fourth quarter, Huntley rushed for a touchdown, before Moss added a 1-yard rushing touchdown late to give the Utes a 33-21 lead with under 5 minutes to go in the game. With the clock ticking down, Washington lumbered through their final 19-play drive, converting three fourth down attempts, leading to a touchdown and the game’s final score.
Utah won the turnover margin 3/2 and was able to capitalize on those turnovers, which was something the Huskies were unable to do. Meanwhile, despite limiting Moss to just 3.7 yards per carry, Washington still allowed him to have a 100-yard rushing game. Bottling up Moss was a key element to any Washington victory scenario, but the second and third levels of the Husky defense had more poor tackling and weren’t able to get off blocks, helping to ensure a Utah win.
Excluding negative sack yardage from Eason, Washington ran for 73 yards against Utah, while Eason threw for 316 yards and four touchdowns. Considering Utah’s stingy run defense and very good secondary, those numbers are actually very good, until you account for Eason’s three turnovers. Salvon Ahmed rushed 14 times for 50 yards, but most of those yards came early as Washington once again abandoned the run when they fell behind in the second half. Hunter Bryant was Washington’s best offensive player of the game, accounting for 105 yards on six receptions with a long of 40 yards and two touchdowns. He also had one carry for 4 yards. Washington’s offensive line did a great job of giving Eason a clean pocket early in the game, but second half adjustments by Utah lead to a chaotic backfield and two sacks.
Washington’s young defense had its moments in this game. In fact, the defensive line might have had its best game of the season. Levi Onwuzurike had 7 tackles, half a sack, and 1.5 TFL. Ryan Bowman also had one sack and one TFL, while Benning Potoa’e tacked on half a sack and just as many TFL. Notably, OLB Joe Tryon had 6 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 TFL.
This was a tough loss at home and ends Coach Petersen’s undefeated streak coming off of a bye week while at Boise State and Washington (he’s now 18-1). Washington sits at 5-4 on the season, 2-4 in conference, and now has no chance at winning the Pac-12 north (the odds of that happening were already small) or having a 10-win season. This season has certainly taken a negative turn, as four losses was probably the most even the most pessimistic Husky fan would have conceded was realistic in August. Now, on a short week, the Huskies will have to travel down to Corvallis to face a good Oregon State offense. Hopefully they can get back into the win column.