A week after limping off the Los Angeles Coliseum field defeated and hurt, Tyler Huntley felt as if he was walking on air as he skipped off the wet turf at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Huntley, who was rumored to be a game-time decision, passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more, powering No. 19 Utah over Washington State 38-13 in the rain on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, WSU coach Mike Leach was more focused on his own team’s deficiencies than any of Huntley’s brilliance.
“It’s difficult to say how tough Utah is because they had token resistance on both of sides of the ball from us. We’re a very soft team. . fat, dumb, happy, and entitled,” Leach said.
Huntley completed 21 of 30 passes for 334 yards. He didn’t attempt a pass in the fourth quarter as Utah (4-1 overall, 1-1 Pac-12) went conservative to claim its first win against the Cougars since 2012.
“I feel as confident as I ever have, but everyone around me played well, the offensive line, the receivers and the defense. We were rolling,” said Huntley, who had runs of 15 and 20 yards.
Anthony Gordon may have set a conference-record nine touchdown passes last week, but it was Huntley who stood out from the get-go. He completed eight of his first 10 passes for two TDs, notwithstanding a wide-open drop in the end zone.
“We knew we’d be without Zack Moss (shoulder injury) tonight, so we had to find a way,” Huntley said. “We came out today to show everyone who Utah really is.”
Utah followed the axiom that the best defense against a high-powered offense is to just keep the ball away. The Utes spent 7:40 on the opening drive of the second half and reached the 1-yard-line before settling for a Jadon Redding 28-yard field goal.
After Jaylon Johnson’s interception, Derrick Vickers rushed for a seven-yard touchdown, giving Utah a 31-13 lead. The Cougars already seemed to have run out of time.
“Now that’s just who we are. I don’t know what everybody thought we were after last week. We’re just being the same DBs we’ve always been, making plays on the ball and playing good defense,” Johnson said.
The Cougars only managed seven plays for 26 yards in the third quarter as the Utes took control.
Then WSU embarked their own long drive (7:06) in the fourth, but was stopped at the 2-yard-line when Julian Blackmon tackled Max Borghi on fourth down.
After becoming the first WSU quarterback to top 400 yards passing in his first four starts, Gordon threw for 252 yards but had two interceptions, including Francis Bernard’s pick with 5:26 to play.
“I was watching film all week and as soon as I saw (the play), I thought this is coming right to me so I bailed out. The quarterback was looking at me and threw it and I made the most of my opportunity,” said Bernard, who also had 12 tackles.
Utah’s defense only allowed one play over 20 yards the entire game.
“We played well in all phases of the game and really followed the game plan,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said with a slight grin, obviously pleased after many have said that Leach had his number.
Utah had 325 yards in first half — averaging 9 yards a play — which was more than the Cougars managed all game. WSU came in with the No. 1 passing attack in the nation at nearly 500 yards a game, but had just 252 yards through the air and just 313 yards of total offense.
“To hold them to what we did tonight was outstanding. It’s great to go into a bye week with a win,” Whittingham said. “We’ve got some momentum back in our favor.”
Samson Nacua, filling in for leading receiver Britain Covey, had five catches for 90 yards, and Bryan Thompson had four receptions for 111 yards.
There were whispers that Covey may redshirt as he hasn’t healed fully from offseason knee surgery and has played the maximum of four games. Whittingham said his future is in the air and he just wasn’t feeling well in the days leading up to the game.
Borghi had 51 yards rushing and nine catches for 70 yards for the Cougars.
The Utes fell nine places after losing to USC, but their stout defense re-emerged to accompany a potent offense. There were many upsets, so Utah doesn’t figure to rise too far.
Washington State: After the astounding collapse against UCLA last week, the defense wasn’t much better Saturday as Utah romped to 526 yards. In addition, Gordon and the offense could never get rolling to try and outscore the Utes.
Utah: Behind the masterful play of Huntley, the Utes didn’t miss Moss much and the defense was sturdy and kept everything in front of them throughout the game. Utah only punted once and played it safe with yet another game ending turnover-free.
Washington State has a bye next week and then visits Arizona State on Oct. 12.
The Utes also rest next week and then play at Oregon State on Oct. 12.