Five Thoughts From Utah's 45-28 Win Over Washington State

After trailing 28-7, Utah made a switch and inserted senior QB Drew Lisk. He then led Utah to an incredible comeback as the Utes rattled off 38 straight points in the second half for the win
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It's a game that will be forever remembered by Utah fans. 

Senior quarterback Drew Lisk, who's in his fifth year with the Utes, started the season as the third-string guy after being eliminated early on in the quarterback competition. He was forced to watch as Jake Bentley and Cam Rising battled it out for the starter's role — which was won by Rising.

But after Rising went down hurt in the opener, Bentley got the nod to start and Lisk was promoted to backup. Yet even through Bentley's noted struggles this season, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham elected to stick with the grad transfer.

That was until late in the first half against Washington State in the season finale.

Trailing 28-7 late in the second quarter, Utah Whittingham decided to do something drastic and inserted Lisk into the game, the first time he's played all season long. After a drive that went nowhere and led to the halftime break with the Utes still trialing by 21, Whittingham elected to stick with Lisk to begin the second half.

Smart move as Utah scored 38 straight points in coming from behind to win 45-28 on Saturday afternoon at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Lisk finished the game 15-for-26 with no touchdowns, but it was more than that for the senior. His calmness in the pocket and ability to step forward and connect on short throws kept the Utes in rhythm on offense and opened up the playbook for offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. This allowed the Utes to get creative, and that's exactly what happened in the win.

Here are FIVE thoughts following one of the most dramatic come-from-behind wins in program history...

1.) The Legend Of Lisk Is Born
After being relegated to the bench as the third string quarterback, senior Drew Lisk proved his worth and has now officially entered legendary status among the Ute faithful.

He entered Saturday's season finale with Utah trailing 28-7 and promptly led the Utes back, as they outscored Washington State 38-0 after the break. Although he didn't throw for a touchdown, he didn't turn the ball over. He made numerous big-time throws on third down that extended drives and just played cool, calm and collected.

Lisk finished the game, and arguably his career at Utah, with 152 yards passing. His ability to step up into the pocket and complete the short throws that kept drives alive can't be overlooked as it completely opened up the playbook for Ludwig.

It's unknown if Lisk will return next season, he has the option if he wants to. But regardless, he will go down as a legend in red and white.

2.) Ty Jordan Isn't Going To Be A Problem, He Already Is a Problem
Entering fall camp, Jordan wasn't sure if he was going to see any real action in the upcoming season. After all, he was competing with Devin Brumfield and Jordan Wilmore, two returning players who had in-game experience and were expected to take over the big void left b y all-time rusher Zack Moss.

Now at the end of the season and the original narrative has been completely rewritten.

Brumfield and Wilmore have elected to transfer from the program because Jordan has emerged as the No. 1 running back. He finished Saturday's game with 154 rushing yards and three touchdowns, the first time a player has rushed for three scores in a game since Moss in 2018.

On the season, Jordan averaged 119.4 yards per game — 156 yards per game since he took over as starter in three weeks ago — and finished with six touchdowns. He is no longer going to be a problem for Pac-12 defenses in the years to come, Jordan has proven himself that he is already a problem and only going to get bigger.

Dec 19, 2020; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes running back Ty Jordan (22) runs the ball against Washington State Cougars defensive back Hunter Escorcia (31) in the second quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

3.) Defense Growing Through Rough Times
Playing defense is so much more difficult to be successful in compared to playing on offense — it really is. So when the Utes were forced to replace nine starters from last season's record-setting unit, expectations were tempered at best.

Growing pains were expected, but how the young Utes would respond to those moments of tribulations were going to decide how successful this unit would be. Senior safety Vonte Davis even said that he had doubts about how good the defense was going to be this season — but all it took was the first game to know how good they were going to be.

"We got some dogs," Davis said. 

The Utes turned in both their worst and best performances of the season on Saturday. In the first half, Utah gave up 28 points and 288 total yards to an offense that has struggled for much of the year. But the second half was completely different as the Utes gave up zero points and just 108 yards, forcing four turnovers and scoring a touchdown in the process.

Utah's ability to flip the switch and not let the struggles of the first half affect them moving forward was huge. That sign of maturity is absolutely huge for this team as they go into the offseason knowing they can return to one of the more dominating units in the conference and country next season.

Dec 19, 2020; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes linebacker Nephi Sewell (29) celebrates a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter by Washington State Cougars wide receiver Travell Harris (1) at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

4.) Utah Proves It Can Close Out A Season Strong
Ever since joining the Pac-12 to start the 2011 season, Utah has failed to end the season with three straight wins. Making matters worse, despite going 20-4 in the previous two seasons prior to the postseason, the Utes went 0-4 in the postseason and lost both of their Pac-12 championship and bowl games.

Utah then started the season 0-2 with losses to USC and Washington, the two teams who won their respective decisions — although Oregon won the Pac-12 title. But somehow they responded to win their final three games, including a 38-21 victory over then-No. 21 Colorado and this comeback victory over Washington State.

"It's really something I'm proud fo the guys for turning around," Whittingham said. 

Closing out the year like that really gives Utah momentum heading into the offseason, especially when nearly half of the starters are underclassmen. Utah proved it knows how to win in December, especially in what's been the most mentally and emotionally draining seasons in a long time. 

Dec 19, 2020; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes tight end Mufi Hill-Hunt (43) and defensive end Mika Tafua (42) celebrate after a turnover in the fourth quarter against the Washington State Cougars at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

5.) Playing This Season Was A Success In More Way Than One
A lot of talk has been made about whether or not a college football season should've ever taken place this year. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the nation, a lot of people were under the impression that college sports should be scrapped until the pandemic can be dealt with safely. But there were others who believed that playing was actually in the best interests of the players and coaches, seeing it as a way to keep them as safe as possible.

Regardless of what side of the fence you stand on, this year was deemed a success as the Utes were able to navigate it rather unscathed. Sure the team missed the first two games of the year due to an outbreak within the program, making them the final FBS program to take this field this year when they started their season on Nov. 21 against USC.

But what Utah did over those five games, coming together as a team to finish the year with three straight wins can't be overlooked. The amount of in-game experience that the freshmen and redshirt freshmen got is going to pay this program in massive dividends in the years to come.

Who cares if the Utes don't want to stick around for another week and play a bowl game. After everything these kids have endured, not seeing their families for the past 6 months and the mental and emotional toll they've gone through, they've earned the right to end the season any way they want.

Getting on the field playing should be looked at as a success. Finishing 3-2 should be looked at as a success. And should the Utes finally break through and win that elusive Pac-12 title in the next 3-4 years, the program will be able to look back at this year and just getting onto the field as the reason being.

Dec 19, 2020; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes running back Micah Bernard (3) runs the ball against Washington State Cougars defensive back Daniel Isom (3) and Washington State Cougars defensive back Derrick Langford (2) in the third quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

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