SEATTLE — Despite faltering in the final seconds to the Washington Huskies Saturday night, the Utes turned in perhaps their most impressive offensive outing of the season.
Facing the No. 1-ranked defense in the Pac-12, the Utes gained 410 yards of total offense, thanks largely to sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley's solid outing.
Huntley, who threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns while completing 19 of 27 passes, was surprisingly effective against the Pac-12's top pass defense.
After throwing three picks and getting sacked seven times in last week’s loss to Washington State, Huntley found a rhythm against the Huskies, thanks in part to superb pass protection.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Huntley’s improvements are starting to show.
“He seems to be getting better weekly,” Whittingham said. "The progress he’s made throughout the course of the season has been very good.”
The Utes also exceeded the 100-yard mark on the ground against the top rush defense in the Pac-12.
Zack Moss netted 55 yards on 17 carries, while Huntley added 48 yards on the ground. But most of Huntley’s biggest plays came through the air.
Huntley found an open Raelon Singleton in the first quarter for a 40-yard strike, setting up a touchdown to tie the game at seven. A couple of series later, Huntley completed back-to-back first-down throws while under pressure, which culminated in a field goal.
Singleton also had an 11-yard TD catch in the corner of the end zone when Huntley saw Washington’s corner had his back turned.
Huntley credited his receivers for helping make his job a bit easier.
“They did a good job just warming up; they keep doing a good job of just catching the balls,” Huntley said.
But perhaps Huntley’s biggest play was a 5-yard rushing TD that came with 10:52 left in the game. With the score tied at 23, Huntley took a snap from the Huksies’ 5-yard line and sprinted up the middle for the score, giving the Utes the lead.
“We were just ready to play,” Huntley said. “We were ready to execute the plays down field.”
If not for Washington quarterback Jake Browning and his receivers' late-game heroics, Utah would have become bowl eligible Saturday night.
Whittingham said while he’s obviously disappointed in the loss, he still saw kernels of optimism.
The O-line played a lot better than last week; more efficiently,” Whittingham said. “Pass protection was better. Receivers made some plays.”6 comments on this story
Despite netting more than 100 yards on the ground, the run game didn’t show up in the biggest moments. Whittingham said there’s still need for improvement.
“We’d still like to get a little more out of the run game, but that’s the No. 1 rush defense in the conference and one of the top in the country, I believe,” Whittingham said. “It was not easy. They have some good players on defense.”
Whittingham said all the Utes can do is look ahead to next week.
“We’ve got one more opportunity,” Whittingham said of becoming bowl eligible. “That is the objective. It’s been the objective for a few weeks now.”