SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – For the second straight week, the Utah football team built a big lead, but this time, the Utes were able to hang on.
Freshman Ty Jordan ran for a career-high 167 yards and a touchdown, while Britain Covey scored two touchdowns to help Utah survive a late rally and beat Oregon State 30-24 for its first win of the season.
“Honestly, I want to give credit to O-line,” Jordan said. “We work so hard and work on all the details to make sure everything is right. The hard work has paid off.”
The Utes (1-2, 1-2 Pac-12) piled up 229 yards rushing to snap a two-game losing streak. Jake Bentley completed 18 of 27 passes for 174 yards passing and a touchdown for Utah.
Bentley, who threw four interceptions in his first two games, did not turn the ball over against Oregon State. After nine turnovers against USC and Washington, Utah had none against the Beavers.
“Proud of our guys for handing adversity, especially the defense,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We were up 30-10 and in complete control of the game. Then we lost control. We ran the ball very well. Ty Jordan was awesome. We did not turn the ball over and that was huge. We didn’t defend the run as well as we had in the first two games tonight.”
Utah blew a 21-0 lead last week at Washington, but the defense held on after the Beavers cut a 30-10 deficit to just six points.
The Utes finished the game with a season-high 403 yards of total offense which included a season-high 229 rushing yards along with 174 passing yards. Utah held Oregon State to 335 yards of total offense, including just 48 yards rushing in the second half (133 total).
Chance Nolan threw for 202 yards and a touchdown and added 36 yards rushing in his first career start. It wasn’t quite enough for the Beavers (2-3, 2/3 Pac-12) to overcome a sluggish start on offense.
Oregon State seized momentum as the fourth quarter progressed.
The Beavers cut a 20-point deficit to six on Kolby Taylor’s 21-yard catch between two defenders with 5:07 left. Oregon State had a couple of chances to drive for a go-ahead touchdown. Nate Ritchie stopped Tyler for a 1-yard loss on 4th-and-1 at the Utah 31 to end the first threat. The Utes were forced to punt with 1:16 left, but Nolan’s fourth-down pass to Luke Musgrave fell incomplete with 21 seconds remaining.
“We were trying to get the job done some way and just get the ball back for the offense,” said linebacker Devin Lloyd. “Had to work through some adversity right there. You just need to be resilient and do your job. Take it play by play and give your all every play. We need to be more disciplined with the penalties, understand the rules and abide by them. We have to do our part by playing smart.”
Utah leaned on explosive running from Jordan to take control in the first half. Jordan piled up 81 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries before halftime. His touchdown, a 1-yard plunge off a long draw play on 4th-and-goal, put the Utes up 16-3 late in the second quarter.
But settling for three field goals in that first half frustrated Whittingham.
“We didn’t score (touchdowns),” he said. “We got field goals those first three trips in the Red Zone. Our ineptness in the Red Zone was a big issue early in the game. The game should have been put away at that point. To us, a field goal in the Red Zone is a loss. Our touchdown percentage in the Red Zone is not good enough. Our Red Zone defense has been very good. You want to be at 50 percent on defense and 70 percent on offense in the Red Zone. The defense is right there. We need to get better on offense.”
Oregon State seemed lost on offense with starting quarterback Tristan Gebbia and top running back Jermar Jefferson both sidelined. The Beavers found some temporary footing when Calvin Tyler scored on a 1-yard run to narrow Utah’s lead to 16-10 just before halftime.
The Utes started to wear down Oregon State’s defense with their run game in the third quarter. Utah ran 10 times in a 14-play, 89-yard drive ending in an 8-yard touchdown catch by Covey that extended its lead to 23-10 midway through the third quarter. That was Covey’s first touchdown catch in two years.
Covey, fully healthy for the first time in nearly two years, returned a punt 64 yards less than a minute into a fourth quarter to put Utah up 30-10.
“It really has been a long time since I’ve felt this good going into a game,” Covey said. “Words can’t express how frustrating it has been. This is my first healthy game since the first Washington game back in 2018. I knew tonight that I wouldn’t be thinking about any injuries or how my body felt. It felt amazing.”
Tight end Brant Kuithe had a season-high eight catches for 76 yards for the Utes.
On defense, Devin Lloyd, Mika Tafua and Hauati Pututau each recorded a sack, as the Utes held Oregon State to just 2 of 12 on third down conversions.
Utah (1-2) next visits Colorado on Friday.