Over two games last season against Washington, including the conference championship game, Utah combined to produce just 10 points as Kyle Whittingham’s team came up just short of winning their first Pac-12 title. Out for a little revenge on Saturday, the No. 9 Utes reversed the trend by pulling away in the second half to keep their 2019 title hopes alive by scoring an impressive 33-28 win up in Seattle over a reeling Huskies squad.
Despite a backfield that was limping around from all the shots they took in the game and the lead up to it, the Utah combo of QB Tyler Huntley and tailback Zach Moss was fantastic down the stretch in finally solving the riddle that was Jimmy Lake’s defense. The former threw for 284 yards and a touchdown, moving around the pocket quite well to make a number of big throws under pressure. It helped that he was able to have Moss take the pressure off with his hard running (100 yards, one touchdown) and ability to sneak out into the flat (five catches, 41 yards and a score receiving too).
Their efforts helped pick up the slack for a defense that was finally tested for the first time since mid-September. Though the Utes forced three turnovers and allowed just five third down conversions, Washington was still able to score three touchdowns — one more than Whittingham’s unit had allowed in their past four games combined. Still, their pressure was apparent on nearly every snap and they did a pretty good job forcing their opponents to be one-dimensional most of the afternoon by limiting things on the ground (three yards per carry).
UW signal-caller Jacob Eason looked good for spurts but it just wasn’t enough to hold onto a halftime lead as he threw for 316 yards, four touchdowns and two rough interceptions. He needed to attempt 52 passes in the affair as running the football was tough going for Salvon Ahmed (50 yards) and company. Tight end Hunter Bryant was a bright spot at least with 105 yards and two scores as he seemed to be wide open in the middle of the field every other snap.
The effort kept Washington from becoming bowl eligible and dropped them to 5-4 on the year — reinforcing how disappointing the team has been this year after starting 2019 in the preseason top 15. They’ll still have opportunities to get to the postseason but whatever promise this group had on both sides of the ball is long gone by this point.
On the other sideline however, the Utes’ victory was a nice way to head into the first College Football Playoff Selection Committee rankings next week at 8-1 with their impressive run continuing to roll on. The team remains in the hunt to get back to Santa Clara for the Pac-12 title game but will have to hope for Oregon to beat USC later on Saturday night if they want to take the top spot in the division standings. Either way, the conference that many wrote off for final four contention a month ago suddenly has more than one team surging on both sides of the ball the past few weeks.