On Saturday night inside Husky Stadium, the Washington Huskies stunned the Utah Utes by scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half to propel them to a 24-21 victory and improve their record, along with Jimmy Lake’s coaching record, to 3-0.
Once the Washington State Cougars were unable to compete in the upcoming Apple Cup, it became a week of speculation. UW waited around until Tuesday night when it became official that they’d face off against the Utes who were originally set to play Arizona State before COVID-19 hampered those plans.
While it was hard to know what to expect with two teams playing on short notice, no one could have predicted what would go on to happen in this thriller.
On the opening drive, sophomore linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui forced a fumble on the opening drive which made it seem like the Utes could be in for a long night. Instead, Washington’s redshirt freshmen quarterback Dylan Morris threw the first interception of his young career and for the rest of the half, the Huskies got thumped.
Throughout the first half, the Dawgs were simply getting bullied. The game was as physical as advertised but the Utes were bringing more of it, especially on the line of scrimmage which they dominated.
Before anyone could blink, things were going south for the first-place team in the North. Utah jumped out to a 21-0 lead heading into the half and hope was bleak due to the Huskies’ inability to get anything going. Washington was out-gained 221-127 and trailed in time of possession 18:25-11:35.
When the Huskies took the field in the second half, they looked like a completely different squad. The team who previously looked dead suddenly could do no wrong. It all began with a 72 yard, 6 play drive that ended with senior running back Kamari Pleasant punching in a score from 2 yards out to trim the lead to 21-7.
On the following Ute drive, senior cornerback Elijah Molden picked off a Jake Bentley pass and momentum was on the verge of shifting. The Huskies offense could not capitalize with a touchdown off the turnover but a 26-yard field goal off the leg of junior kicker Peyton Henry trimmed the lead down to 21-10.
Washington’s defense then forced a turnover on downs after just 7 plays and the Huskies once again were sounding the siren after a 3 play, 58-yard drive. Morris and junior tight end Cade Otton hooked up for 21-yard gains twice and the second one resulted in the touchdown that capped off the drive. Although Husky Stadium was fan-less, the momentum was now roaring in favor of the mighty men in purple and gold.
The Utes responded by marching into Husky territory and the red-zone before sophomore cornerback Kyler Gordon popped Ty Jordan, causing a fumble that was picked up and returned by Tupuola-Fetui, or ZTF, for 29 yards. They were unable to convert off the turnover but kept Utah off the board which later played a big part.
After both teams had drives stall, Morris and the offense trotted back onto the field but with 6:47 left in the game, Morris threw his third interception of the game after an underthrow to junior wide receiver Ty Jones. The interception was deflating but ultimately not too costly because the Dawg defense forced a three and out with ZTF recording back to back sacks on 2nd and 3rd down.
It was then time for Morris to show his worth.
With 4:21 left on the clock, UW was sitting at their own 12-yard line with 88 yards between them and their first lead of the night. The drive’s first big play came when junior receiver Terrell Bynum took an end-around carry for 11 yards (unfortunately Bynum appeared to land awkwardly on his wrist and left the game). A couple of plays later, Morris and sophomore receiver Puka Nacua connected on a 14 yard gain on 3rd down and then for 15 more yards on the following play.
The back-to-back plays from Nacua left the Huskies sitting at Utah’s 44-yard line with 1:57 left on the clock. After an incompletion to Pleasant on first down, Morris found Otton twice for gains of 7 and 9 yards.
The next two plays were made by Pleasant after he picked up 2 yards on the ground and then caught a short pass from Morris and made a man miss to get to the first down marker. With 36 seconds left, Morris rifled a pass to Otton who came down with it and stepped into the end-zone to finally give the Huskies a 24-21 lead.
The pressure was now on the defense who just had to get a stop to seal the win and they did just that as sophomore cornerback Trent McDuffie came away with the game-sealing interception after the Utes had picked up just 5 yards on 3 plays.
What a fight from the Huskies.
While the drive from Morris is what most will remember when thinking back on this game, let’s not forget about the fumble that Gordon forced in the red-zone while down 21-17 or the dominance of ZTF -- who recorded three sacks -- along with the rest of the defense. The Ute offense was blanketed in the second half and scored zero points.
Let’s give Morris his flowers. Despite throwing three interceptions (one being on a hail-mary to end the half), his confidence never wavered. The poise of the young signal-caller has been notable through three games and it was on display during that surgical final drive. He wasn’t perfect, but he certainly was victorious.
Morris finished with 272 yards on 23/38 passing to go along with 2 touchdowns and the interceptions. His leading receiver was Cade Otton who caught 8 passes for 108 yards and both touchdowns.
In the end, UW out-gained the Utes 360-359 and forced four turnovers on their way to their largest comeback win since 1988.
The Dawgs are 3-0!