PULLMAN, Wash. — Utah locked up its ninth consecutive winning season with a 30-27 overtime win Saturday at Washington State.
"That's big. That's big for our program, and credit to our players, all the players that have come through here and worked their tails off to accomplish something like that," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham after the Utes improved to 7-4 overall and 4-4 in Pac-12 play. "That's something that there's not a lot of teams in the country that can say that, and it's a credit to the players."
The latest triumph didn't come easy, especially on a cold, snowy afternoon and early evening on the Palouse.
"Crazy game, but that's college football," Whittingham said. "It was two teams going at it and giving everything they had. What more can you ask for?"
It was a game that literally came down to the last play. That's when Coleman Petersen drilled a 38-yard field goal to give the Utes their fourth consecutive victory.
"That was a crazy win, a great win for us," said Utah quarterback Jon Hays. "We're feeling good right now."
Petersen's game-winning kick followed a defensive stop by the Utes. Cornerback Mo Lee put an end to Washington State's only overtime possession with his second interception of the game and Utah's fourth overall against freshman quarterback Connor Halliday.
Lee said he "had to make a play" after the defense surrendered a pair of 10-point leads in the final 6:56 of regulation.
The game, he added, had everything you could wish for. It was exciting, fun and stressful.
Washington State forced the extra session when kicker Andrew Furney connected on a 17-yard attempt on the final play of regulation.
"They found ways to make plays in the fourth quarter and we didn't defensively," Whittingham said before noting on the flip side that Utah's offense came to life in the second half.
Running back John White IV moved up to No. 3 on the Utes' single-season rushing chart with 186 yards on 42 carries. He scored two touchdowns, both in the fourth quarter. Hays and DeVonte Christopher also came up big in the second half, teaming UP on a pair of pivotal third-down plays to keep scoring drives alive.
"He's a great player," Hays said of Christopher. "He made some great catches."
The central figure, though, was Petersen. The junior made three field goals and three PATs in the wintery weather.
"Those were some big-time kicks he made. That was the difference in the game really," Hays said. "He doesn't make those, we don't win. So props to Coleman — he did a great job."
Whittingham had similar thoughts.
"Coleman Petersen. What can you say?," Whittingham said. "He was the difference in the game."
After exchanging field goals with Furney in the third quarter, Peterson gave Utah its first lead with a 45-yard kick early in the fourth quarter.
The Utes expanded their advantage to 20-10 after Patrick Greene recovered a fumbled punt return by Washington State to set up a touchdown drive that ended with a 3-yard run by White.
The battle continued with White running down the left sideline for a 56-yard TD run less than 30 seconds after that.
The Cougars then retaliated with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Halliday to Jared Karstetter with 3:14 left to play, followed by Furney's game-tying kick at the horn.
Despite the drama, it all worked out for Utah in overtime.
"We just want to keep winning. I can't say we're satisfied with a winning season," Christopher said. "We'll be satisfied if we win this last game, get to a bowl game and win that."
The Utes host Colorado on Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. A victory will end their inaugural Pac-12 season with a winning conference record at 5-4.
Washington State, meanwhile, fell from bowl contention with the loss. The Cougars are 4-7 overall entering next week's Apple Cup game against Washington in Seattle.
Utah and WSU played to a 7-7 draw in a first half featuring 11 penalties, 10 punts and three interceptions. The Utes had all of the latter — with Eric Rowe, Brian Blechen and Lee each picking off Washington State passes — but they were unable to cash in on the turnovers, punting on each ensuing possession.31 comments on this story
Punting, however, also had something to do with Utah's lone score in the half. A fake punt on fourth-and-9 resulted in a 49-yard touchdown pass from punter Sean Sellwood to Luke Matthews with 1:47 left to play in the second quarter. Petersen added the PAT to put the Utes on top 7-0.
It didn't stay that way for long, however.
Before the half was complete, Washington State responded with a six-play, 77-yard touchdown drive to even things up. A 6-yard scoring strike from Halliday to Marquess Wilson capped it off with just 33 seconds to go in the half.