Utah Football Beats Washington State After Big Fourth Quarter

Sep 25, 2021, 3:52 PM | Updated: 10:13 pm

Utah Utes - Washington State Cougars...

Junior Tafuna #58 of the Utah Utes celebrates sacking Jarrett Guarantano #18 of the Washington State Cougars during their game September 25, 2021 at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Utes opened Pac-12 Conference play with a win over the Washington State Cougars following a big fourth quarter.

The Utes hosted the Cougars at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, September 25. Cam Rising threw for 137 yards in his second career start. He also ran for 46 yards on five carries. T.J. Pledger led the charge in the running game with 10 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown.

Utah Starts Slow Offensively, Scores Late In Second Quarter

The first drive by Washington State resulted in a turnover on downs but the Utes couldn’t capitalize as they punted after a six-play, 15-yard drive. When Wazzu got the ball back, they got some open looks in the middle of the field but were set up just outside of field goal range and not really in punting territory so they went for it on fourth down again.

Karene Reid – who was making his first start with Nephi Sewell out with an injury – picked off Jarrett Guarantano. Once again, Utah was forced to punt on their next possession.

Early in the second quarter, Washington State was able to get down field with some costly penalties by Utah, particularly on a facemask call. The Cougars settled for a 39-yard field goal to give them a 3-0 lead with 10:34 remaining in the second.

Utah had their first three-and-out drive following the field goal but got the ball back after Washington State punted for the first time. Rising got the offense going when he got a 31-yard run up the sideline and they added 15 more yards onto the end of the run when Washington State grabbed his facemask. Britain Covey got the ball into the flat and took Utah into the red zone.

Then Ja’Quinden Jackson made his collegiate debut where he had an 8-yard run to the WSU two-yard line. On the following play, the Texas transfer ran in a two-yard touchdown to give the Utes a 7-3 lead with 4:14 remaining in the first half.

Washington State was able to get down the field and make a 20-yard field goal as halftime expired to put the score at 7-6 at the halftime break.

Right out of the halftime break, Micah Bernard fumbled on the first play and Washington State recovered. Two plays later, Guarantano found De’Zhaun Stribling for a 26-yard touchdown to give the Cougars a 13-7 lead with 13:40 left in the third.

When Utah got the ball back, they were moving down the field. Rising found Cole Fotheringham down the middle but the ball came loose before he hit the ground. The officials called him down before the ball popped out. After reviewing the play, it was clear that the ball came out before Fotheringham hit the ground but the officials said the play stands as called. Utah made a 28-yard field goal to trim the deficit to 13-10 with 9:15 remaining in the third.

Guarantano threw a pick to Devin Lloyd, who had the Utes in prime field position at the WSU 19-yard line. Two plays later, Ja’Quinden Jackson fumbled the ball, making it four for the Utes to that point.

Fortunately for Utah, they forced Washington State to punt after a big sack by Van Fillinger on third down. Britain Covey had a nice punt return of 19 yards to bring the Utes nearly to midfield. The Utes got into the red zone once again with an incredible grab by Dalton Kincaid, while keeping his foot inbounds.

Utah had another fumble as Rising bobbled the snap under center but managed to recover it. They had to settle for a field goal but Redding missed the 31-yard attempt. Once again, Utah’s defense forced WSU to punt the ball away and the Utes had another chance to tie or take the lead.

T.J. Pledger set Utah up in to the red zone with a 59-yard run. Two plays later, Chris Curry was in the end zone but the ball was hit loose and Washington State recovered for a touchback. The Cougars punted again and Britain Covey set the school record for most career punt return yards in program history with 902. He fumbled the ball out of bounds on the play.

After a big catch by Devaughn Vele, T.J. Pledger scored his first career touchdown in a Utah uniform to give the Utes a 17-13 lead with 4:53 left in the game.

With 2:19 remaining, Clark Phillips III returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown to seal the game for Utah.

Utah improved to 2-2 on the season and 1-0 in Pac-12 games with the win.

The Utes’ next game is against the USC Trojans on October 9.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com, Co-Host of Faith, Family and Football podcast with Clark Phillips III and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASports.

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Utah Football Beats Washington State After Big Fourth Quarter