SALT LAKE CITY — It takes four quarters to win a football game.
For Utah, a strong first-half performance was not enough to overcome a surging Washington team that scored 24 unanswered points to come from behind to claim a 24-21 win Saturday night at Husky Stadium in Seattle.
"We've just got to come out and execute, and just continue to be at our best for 60 minutes, and not 30 — the full 60," Utah senior quarterback Jake Bentley said. "I think that's what, at the end of the day, it boils down — just having a 60-minute mindset to execute the whole game."
"There's 60 minutes of football, we played 30 of them, and came out in the second half and didn't get much done," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said, echoing his quarterback.
Utah (0-2) controlled a 21-0 lead at the halftime break but couldn't find the end zone for the remainder of the game as turnovers and stalled drives limited the Utah offense.
Washington (3-0) opened up the second half with the ball and came out of the locker room hot to reel off 17 points in the third quarter and an additional 7 points in the fourth quarter.
Call it turnovers, call it inexperience, call it exhaustion on the defense, Utah couldn't close out on a game it dominated early. And whatever happened on the field for the Utes, it was Washington that took advantage.
The Huskies needed just short of 3 minutes out of the halftime breaking to come away with their first touchdown of the game — a 2-yard rushing touchdown by Kamari Pleasant that was preceded by a 38-yard gain from Terrell Bynum on a wide-open pass from Washington quarterback Dylan Morris — and the scoring continued from there for Washington.
Morris added a 21-yard touchdown pass to Cade Otton late in the third quarter to round out a 17-point performance that brought the Huskies within striking distance of the Utes. The dagger, though was 88-yard drive that took just under four minutes to score the go-ahead touchdown and eventual game winner with 36 seconds left to play.
Morris connected with Otton for a second time on a 16-yard pass to give Washington its first lead of the game. The redshirt freshman quarterback for Washington finished with 272 yards and two touchdowns and three interceptions on 23-of-38 passing. He wasn't perfect, as his three inceptions tell, but he did enough to give the Huskies a fighting chance to stay undefeated and claim the top spot in the North Division of the Pac-12.
In the first half, Morris had only 77 yards on 10-of-18 passing as the Utes held the Huskies to 127 yards of total offense.
The second half didn't go Utah's way for the second straight week — Utah is scoreless in the second half of its games this season — as the Utes turned over the ball four times in another turnover-laden performance in back-to-back weeks. Utah now has a combined nine turnovers in its small sample size of two games on the 2020 season.
The first half, though, showed Utah's potential as a young team, Whittingham said.
"Tough loss, obviously, but a lot of positive things in that game," Whittingham said. "The way we played in the first half was indicative of how we can be, but we didn't finish."
Bentley and his offensive line settled in well after a mediocre play the week previously against USC and had only two incompletions in the first half while throwing for 87 yards. He capped off his first-half performance when he found receiver Bryan Thompson for a 13-yard touchdown to give Utah a 21-0 lead into the halftime break.
The senior quarterback finished the half on 9-of-11 passing and added 39 rushing yards and a score with his feet to give the Utes the lopsided lead that turned out to be short lived.
Utah opened up the game with a drive deep into Washington territory, but Bentley was stripped of the ball for a fumble to kill the potential score. On the ensuing Washington drive, freshman corner Faybian Marks picked off Morris and returned it 28 yards to give the Utes the ball at midfield. Marks nearly had another interception deep inside Utah's territory late in the half but dropped the pass as his eyes were ahead of him on what would have been a pick six score.
The Utes took advantage of the early turnover and Bentley finished the team's second drive with a 7-yard rushing touchdown to take the early lead.
Utah's second touchdown of the game came on a 2-yard rush from running back Devin Brumfield up the middle of the Washington defense. The play was made possible after freshman running back Ty Jordan broke free for a 46-yard run to get Utah in scoring position.
Jordan was the star of the offense in only his second collegiate game. Last week, Whittingham said the freshman needed more touches, and his performance against Washington showed why. Jordan finished the game with 97 rushing yards — that included a run of 46 yards and 35 yards — on 10 carries to lead the Utes in the run game. He added 31 receiving yards on four catches.
And though the Utah offense was hitting on all cylinders in the first half, it was defense that put the team in a position to build a comfortable lead. Utah came away with two interceptions, including an interception at the goal line by Zemaiah Vaughn that was returned 73 yards to close out the first half, and only allowed 127 total yards of offense (77 passing yards and 50 rushing yards) in the half.
The defense held Washington to 360 yards of total offense, but held the team to only 88 yards rushing, which is the second time this season the opponent has been held under 100 yards rushing.
Utah returns home to welcome North Division opponent Oregon State Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Beavers upset rival Oregon Friday to dethrone the Ducks as the conference's leading team and will be a tough test for the Utes as they look for their first win of a shortened season.