So much about college football nowadays is about how your team responds to a loss, especially in conference play given how tight the standings typically are at the end of the year. That was especially true given the way No. 19 Utah (to USC’s third-string quarterback) and Washington State (collapsing against UCLA) took L’s last week prior to their meeting in Salt Lake City on Saturday night.
Safe to say that the Utes did what Kyle Whittingham was looking for between the lines from his team as they thumped a reeling Cougars squad 38-13 in a rain-soaked outing that proved the two sides were headed in opposite directions in the Pac-12 standings.
Despite adverse conditions of rain, wind and cold, Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley played perhaps his best game of the season given the stage. The senior threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns while utilizing his legs constantly, escaping pressure with ease while rushing for 31 yards and two scores as well. He certainly seemed to put the team on his back and did so without starting tailback Zach Moss, who was injured in that loss to the Trojans and was on the sidelines out of action.
Fellow Floridian Devonta’e Henry-Cole led the Utes in rushing (79 yards) while Samson Nacua had a breakout game with 90 yards and a touchdown reception. Bryan Thompson also put up numbers (111 yards on four catches) as the passing game didn’t seem phased by the loss of injured slot man Britain Covey.
While the defense was feisty as ever in forcing a turnover and limiting Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense well below their season averages, the offense soaking up most of the third quarter and running off 17 unanswered points really salted away the must-win game for the home team.
As for Wazzu, they initially looked like they were going to make this a fun finish but instead wilted in the second half for the second straight week. Anthony Gordon tossed just one touchdown pass (after a school-record nine against the Bruins) and threw for only 252 yards and two interceptions as the offense just couldn’t find the end zone enough to keep things interesting. Max Borghi rushed for 51 and caught nine passes for 70 yards but there otherwise wasn’t much to write home about for the suddenly 3-2 Cougs going into their off week.
While it appears Leach and company will fall further behind Oregon and Washington in the Pac-12 North standings, the victory by Utah allows them to keep pace in the somewhat packed Pac-12 South going into their own idle weekend. They’ll head to lowly Oregon State next before a suddenly huge game against Arizona State at home in mid-October. The slate remains pretty difficult for the Utes and they’ll have to count on USC losing at least once in order to make it to the conference title game again but they proved a lot on Saturday night by bouncing back from their first loss of the year to roll at home.