Had fans been permitted inside Husky Stadium, a lot of them would have been streaming out of it at halftime on a cold night.
Shaking their heads.
Getting in their cars.
Not looking back.
On Saturday night, Jimmy Lake's high-energy team had none as it fell behind 21-0.
His mistake-free quarterback, Dylan Morris, made a bunch.
His NFL-sized offensive line couldn't budge a rebuilding Utes defensive line.
Even his supposedly sterling defensive secondary got lit up.
Had anyone left on a normal game night, or, in this case, shut off the TV, the fans would have missed everything.
Pulling themselves out of a huge hole, the Huskies stormed back with four second-half scores, capped by Morris finding Cade Otton with a 16-yard touchdown pass with just 36 seconds left to play, good for a stirring 24-21 victory. All it was lacking was a cascading roar from 72,000 people.
Morris took the Huskies 88 yards in 12 plays to complete the comeback. Otton finished with 8 catches for 108 yards and two scores. They were two of many heroes.
"We kept saying to each other, 'We're going to do this,' " senior cornerback Elijah Molden said. " 'We're really going to do this.' "
The last time the UW overcame a 21-0 deficit or more was in 1988 against California, which became a 28-27 victory. The Huskies trailed 27-3 at home in that one.
"It's surreal just thinking about it," Otton said. "We had guys making plays all over the field."
The Huskies made it a game again by scoring on their first three possessions of the third quarter. In a hurry, Kamari Pleasant, back as the starter, rushed one in for a score from 2 yards out, Peyton Henry kicked a 26-yard field goal and Otton pulled in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Morris.
The UW defense, a pushover for two quarters, regrouped behind sophomore outside linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui, who came up with his third consecutive disruptive game. He collected three sacks, giving him seven in three games, and returned a fumble 29 yards to the Husky 43 caused by cornerback Kyler Gordon early in the fourth quarter.
"That was probably the first comeback I've ever been a part of," the player known as ZTF said. "I'm glad my success is translating into team success."
Coming off victories over Oregon State and Arizona, the UW (3-0) had the upper hand in the first half only on the opening series.
To open the game, Tupuola-Fetui crashed through to strip the ball from Utah quarterback Jake Bentley and register his fifth sack. Jackson Sirmon recovered the ball on the UW 36. For Husky first-half highlights, that was it. It was bleak. Hard to watch. Uninspiring.
Turnover-free entering the game, Morris served up an interception on the Huskies' first offensive series, throwing it right to Utah freshman Faybian Marks at the UW 48. He ended up getting picked three times but hung in there. He completed 23 of 38 passes for 272 yards.
Nine plays later, the Utes (0-2) took the lead at 7-0 on a 7-yard run by Bentley, a transfer from South Carolina making his first Pac-12 start. The Huskies were no match for his SEC acumen. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 144 yards and a TD, but was intercepted by Molden and Trent McDuffie in the second half.
The only positive outcome on Utah's initial 52-yard scoring drive was a cameo appearance: Husky sophomore defensive tackle Tuli Letuligasenoa, pegged as a starter but absent for two games for unexplained reasons, was inserted on a fourth-and-4 play that the UW couldn't stop. He later appeared in the second half on fourth-down stop.
Early in the second quarter, Morris and Marks crossed paths again and the Huskies' young quarterback avoided disaster, but just barely. Backed up against his end zone, Morris threw one into the flat where Marks, who hails from Richmond, Texas, dropped a sure pick-six.
Once the teams traded possessions, Utah zipped in for its second score, on a 2-yard run by Devin Brumfield. His touchdown was set up by Ty Jordan's 46-yard dash to the Husky 4. The Husky defense offered little resistance at that point.
After the UW missed a field goal, the Utes smelled blood. They moved 78 yards in just seven plays, for Bentley's 13-yard TD pass to Bryan Thompson with 42 seconds left in the half for their commanding 21-0 lead.
Midway through that drive, the Huskies' Tupuola-Fetui appeared to pull his defensive magic once more, dropping Bentley with a forearm shiver for another sack. The officials, however, flagged him for hitting the quarterback in the head area and a 15-yard penalty that gave the Utes a huge boost.
The UW had trouble stopping the run, giving up 215 rushing yards to Utah, while picking up just 88 in playing mostly from behind.
"I guess I was in a state of shock," Tupuola-Fetui said of the huge deficit. "I was down on my luck for a second. We just had to take a step back."
To pull this one out, the Huskies began the close drive on their 12-yard line with 4:21 left to play. Morris didn't flinch as he led his team up the field carefully and methodically, converting a pair of third-down plays. He also picked an errant snap off the ground and cooly delivered it to Otton for a 7-yard gain. He couldn't be rattled.
"Probably that moment right there really puts it in a capsule," Lake said of his heady quarterback. "That sequence right there captures what Dylan is all about."
For the game-winner, Morris scrambled and hit the sure-handed Otton with a step on him man running right to left to decide things and send his teammates into a frenzy.
"That's one of the reasons I play football," Molden said. "It's not always going to go your way and you have to work through it."
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