PULLMAN, Wash. — Utah made the ultimate mistake in a shootout at Washington State. The Utes fired in the wrong direction when it mattered most in a 28-24 loss to the Cougars at Martin Stadium.
“We had it ... just shot ourselves in the foot,” said Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley.
Running back Zack Moss agreed.
“We shot ourselves in the foot when we needed to make plays,” he said.
Penalties, including one that negated a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown by Britain Covey in the fourth quarter, proved costly as the Utes fell to 2-2 overall and 0-2 in Pac-12 play.
“A tough loss, obviously,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “It’s not the outcome we were looking for.”
Even so, Whittingham acknowledged that there were some positives. Moss rushed for 106 yards and Huntley finished with 88 as Utah’s offense got off to a good start with three touchdowns in the first half.
“We had a plan of coming in running the ball,” Huntley said. “Because we knew they pass the ball a lot, so we knew we had to keep it on the ground a little bit and that’s what happened.”
Huntley credited Washington State for doing a good job adjusting in the second half. Utah’s lone score after the break was a 41-yard field goal by Matt Gay with 10:39 to go in the third quarter.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of drives,” Huntley said.
Utah’s last five possessions ended with four punts and a loss on downs. The final drive featured two penalties on fourth down.
Washington State also struggled for a stretch. The Cougars came up empty in six straight drives over the second and third quarters.
Shortly after Utah took a 24-21 advantage on Gay’s kick, Maxs Tupai kept the Utes in front by blocking a 52-yard field goal attempt by Blake Mazza.
Washington State (4-1, 1-1) had the final say, however, later on when quarterback Gardner Minshew II teamed with Easop Winston on an 89-yard scoring strike with 4:14 remaining.
“We knew they were going to come out and be heavy pass, and they got the better of us this time,” said Utah cornerback Julian Blackmon.
Minshew wound up throwing for 445 yards and three touchdowns.
“It was a very scrappy fourth quarter by both teams,” said Washington State coach Mike Leach. “And very physical, one of the more physical games I’ve been involved in.”
It didn’t take long for the teams to establish themselves offensively. Utah favored a ground attack, and Washington State preferred an air raid. Midway through the first quarter, the Utes had thrown just one pass and the Cougars had run the ball just once.
Things weren’t completely mundane, however. Utah’s defense put an end to Washington State’s game-opening possession when safety Corrion Ballard intercepted Minshew on the 2-yard line. The senior returned it to the Utah 25, where the Utes embarked on a 10-play scoring drive.
The march proved eventful with Washington State safety Skyler Thomas drawing an ejection for targeting on a reception by Utah receiver Britain Covey along the way. A 24-yard touchdown run by Huntley later capped things off.
But it didn’t put a lid on scoring.
Just over three minutes later, Washington State scored its first touchdown on a 4-yard pass from Minshew to Tay Martin.
Utah, in turn, responded with its second 10-play scoring drive. Moss did much of the heavy lifting. The junior gained three yards on fourth-and-1 from the Washington State 31 and wound up crossing the goal line on a 6-yard run late in the first quarter.
The 14-7 lead proved to be short-lived as the Cougars responded both slowly and quickly. They knotted the scored with a 12-play drive that concluded with a 10-yard TD run by Minshew.80 comments on this story
Utah punted ion the ensuing possession and Washington State needed just two plays to take the lead. A 65-yard scoring strike from Minshew to Dezmon Patmon gave the Cougars a 21-14 edge with 9:03 left in the half.
The Utes fired back, piecing together a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. A 1-yard run by Huntley and Gay’s third PAT made it 21-21 with 6:01 to go.
It stayed that way for the balance of the half. Washington State had 293 yards of total offense (286 passing) after the first two quarters, while Utah netted 216 yards (154 rushing).