Pac-12 after dark was in full swing Saturday night as the University of Utah traveled to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies. The Utes looked primed for the upset against a Top-25 team while becoming bowl eligible in the process. At halftime, Utah was in the match only down a field goal. In second half, Utah took a touchdown lead twice, but couldn't manage to keep the lead, as Washington scored 10 points in the last-minute of the game to beat the Utes 33-30.
From one week to the next, the Utes' offense showed massive improvement. Tyler Huntley was the playmaker Utah fans have waited to consistently see with 293 yards passing and 48 yards rushing. Ten receivers got into the action, and the Utes were able to move the ball up the field. But when it mattered at the end of the game to get one more first down to get the game to overtime, Huntley was held short on third down, where the Utes went 5 for 15 on the evening.
The Utes' defense started to ratchet up the pressure in the second half, causing Jake Browning to misfire. But when push came to shove, Utah settled to go back into zone coverage and Browning picked the Utes apart, knowing that the Utes were injury prone in the secondary. It was also another game for the defense that did not result in an interception or recovering a fumble. In this type of game, one turnover from Washington could have made all the difference.
After last year's game in Salt Lake City, you can bet that the special teams unit had a chip on their shoulder from when Dante Pettis ran a punt return back to beat the Utes. This year, Mitch Wishnowsky and company kept Pettis at bay with only two returns for 18 yards total. Wishnowsky even returned a fake punt on fourth and 17 to keep the drive alive. Matt Gay went 3-3 on field goals and extra points, but unfortunately did not get a chance to win the game with his leg.
The decision coach Kyle Whittingham made at the end of the game was another reason this season just has not panned out as planned. With the game tied 30-30, Whittingham and offensive coordinator Troy Taylor decided to put the ball in the air, but the choice did not reap any benefit. This gave Washington more time to march down the field and score the game's winning field goal. In this case, the aggression did not pay off, and the Utes came up empty-handed again.
Utah had Washington on the ropes, hoping to win one more game to become bowl eligible. The Utes did not make the big plays down the stretch, while Washington looked calm and ready, slicing the defense apart. Utah will have one more matchup next week against Colorado to become bowl eligible or it may miss its first bowl game since the 2013 season.
Shane Reinhard is a graduate of Weber State University and a teacher and coach at St. Joseph Catholic High School in Ogden, Utah. Email: [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @hoopsters12.