Seattle, Washington -- Utah is still learning that it takes a full four quarters to win a football game, not just two.
After jumping out to a 21-0 halftime lead against Washington, the Utes failed to show up in the second half and fell 24-21 on a last-minute touchdown by the Huskies.
“A lot of positive things in that game. The way we played in the first half was indicative of who we can be, but we didn’t finish,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “There’s 60 minutes of football and we played 30 of them. We came out in the second half and didn’t get much done. … You’ve got to put two halves together and finish the deal.”
Blame it on youth and inexperience, blame it on an anemic offense, blame it on a gassed defense or blame it on poor coaching. Regardless of where the blame is placed and who's responsible for it, Utah is still winless after two games — it's first time doing so since 2007.
"We've just got to come out and execute, and just continue to be at our best for 60 minutes, and not 30. ... The full 60," Utah quarterback Jake Bentley said. "I think that's what, at the end of the day, it boils down. ... Just having a 60-minute mindset to execute the whole game."
It was a great start for Utah as they drove right down the field on the opening possession, but Bentley was sacked and fumbled, which was recovered by the Huskies. The Utes defense picked up the slack as freshman cornerback Faybian Marks notched his first career interception and returned it into Washington territory.
Bentley then capitalized with a seven-yard rushing touchdown to give Utah an early 7-0 lead.
After each team traded empty possessions — one where Marks nearly had a pick-six — Utah got the ball back with great field possession at its own 41 early in the second quarter. Freshman running back Ty Jordan broke off a 46-yard rush that put the ball at the Washington 4 before Devin Brumfield finished the drive with a touchdown.
After a 40-yard missed field goal by Washington on the ensuing drive, the Utes took over at their own 22 with 3:51 left in the opening half. Rather than just settle for the two-touchdown advantage, Whittingham and offensive coordinator elected to keep their foot on the gas.
Bentley converted a big third-and-four to Bryan Thompson for 19 yards, before a personal foul on the Huskies put the ball int the red zone. Bentley and Thompson then hooked up one more time, this one on a 13-yard pass to the corner of the end zone for a 21-0 lead.
Washington wasted no time making a difference in the second half as it took the opening kickoff and drove right down the field, resulting in a rushing touchdown by Kamari Pleasant.
The Utes had a chance to respond but Bentley's second turnover of the game proved costly. On third-and-6, he rolled to his left and had a wide open Britain Covey with nothing but daylight in front of him, but he under threw the pass and was intercepted by Elijah Molden.
The Utes young defense responded by stiffening in the red zone and limiting the damage to a field goal.
The poor decisions continued on the next Utah possession, albeit this one came from the coaching staff.
Facing a fourth-and-one at Washington's 41 yard line, Bentley went for a quarterback sneak rather than handing the ball off to a running game that was dominating at the time or punting and pinning Washington deep. He was eventually stuffed and the Huskies took over on downs with great field possession
“We’ve got to continue to learn from our mistakes. Our defense is doing a great job of getting the ball back for us,” said Bentley, who completed 16-of-23 passes for 144 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. “We’ve got to stop giving it back. That starts with me. It’s frustrating, for sure, because you feel like you let the team down.”
Washington capitalized as quarterback Dylan Morris (23-for-38, 272 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions) found tight end Cade Otton (eight catches, 108 yards and two scores) — who was unstoppable all night — for a 21-yard scoring strike, making it a 4-point game entering the fourth quarter.
The Utes then responded with their best drive of the second half. Creative play-calling got the ball to the red zone but that's where it ended as Jordan fumbled for the first time in his career.
“Those were backbreakers. Those two certainly didn’t help our cause. I firmly believe we probably would have scored when Ty fumbled there in the red zone,” Whittingham said. “But he did some really good things for us. He’s an electrifying player. I’m sure Jake wishes he had that throw (to Covey) back.”
With Washington taking over at its own 43, the Utes defense once again answered the call and forced a three-and-out. Utah then did nothing on offense but was able to pin the Huskies back at their own 6 yard line with 8:21 to play.
Potentially the play of the game, Utah safety Vonte Davis picked off Morris, giving the Utes the ball at midfield with just over six minutes to play and a chance to run out the clock or make it a two-score game.
Yet the offense struggled once again, failing to pickup a first down as Bentley was sacked on second and third down. Utah was forced to punt and Washington took over at its own 12 with 4:31 to play.
The Huskies then methodically drove down the field and Morris kept finding Puka Nacua and Otton for big plays, eventually resulting in a 16-yard touchdown pass to Otton with just 36 seconds to play.
Utah was unable to mount a final drive as Bentley was picked off for the second time that, ending the game.
“We’ve just got to find a way to get off the field and get the offense the ball back,” linebacker Devin Lloyd said. “There was definitely progress. ... Every day we get better. The first half was indicative of what we can be. But we have to find a way to finish when it matters the most.”
Jordan finished with 14 touches for 128 total yards while Thompson added three catches for 65 yards and a score.
Brant Kuithe was once again non-existent in the game plan, finishing with five touches for 32 yards, all of which came in the first half.
Utah returns home to face Oregon State on Saturday. Kickoff is TBD.
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