SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah football team’s final game of the year against Washington State kind of reflected how the 2020 season went.
A slow start, followed by a strong finish.
Rallying from a 28-7 halftime deficit, freshman running back Ty Jordan ran for 154 yards and three touchdowns, while Drew Lisk replaced starting quarterback Jake Bentley, to rally Utah to a 45-28 victory over Washington State on Saturday.
Utah (3-2, 3-2 Pac-12) became bowl eligible with the victory, but on Friday, the team voted not to play in a bowl game this year.
“By the looks of the first half, you would have thought we opted out of that half and the bowl game,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “But we woke up in the second half I guess you could say. I’m very proud of the way the guys came out with a lot of resolve and determination in that second half. We just made play after play after play. It kind of snowballed.”
Jordan had 187 total yards, and became the first Utes freshman since Chris Fuamatu-Maafala in 1995 to rush for three touchdowns in a game.
“It was just time to turn up,” Jordan said about Utah’s second half surge. [Whittingham] told us if you don’t want to go hard the last thirty minutes of the game, then stay in the locker room. As you can see, everybody that came out was ready to work.”
After Jake Bentley threw an interception that led to Washington State’s fourth touchdown of the game, he was benched in favor of Lisk, who came on to throw for 152 yards, as the Utes outscored the Cougars in the second half, 38-0.
“I just knew it was time to go,” said Lisk, who just wrapped up his fifth year in the Utes program. “That’s what I worked all week in practice for, all off season and the last four years. The biggest thing is these guys on this team, they trust me, and I trust them. So, there was never a doubt in anyone’s minds. We just needed to go out and execute.”
“You saw the legend of Drew Lisk was born in that second half,” Whittingham said. “He’ll be able to tell that story for years.”
Britain Covey added a career-high 134 yards and a 91-yard touchdown to help power the Utes’ comeback effort.
Lisk led Utah on three straight second-half touchdown drives to erase a 21-point deficit. Jordan scored twice on the three drives and tied it at 28 with 12:01 left when he bounced outside on fourth-and-2 and sprinted 33 yards untouched down the sideline for the score.
Washington State committed turnovers on its final four drives to open the door for Utah to take the lead and complete an improbable comeback.
Clark Phillips snagged two of the turnovers himself. Phillips recovered a fumble by Borghi, setting up Jordan’s 13-yard go-ahead run that gave Utah its first lead at 35-28. Then, the freshman returned an interception 36 yards for Utah’s final score with 2:06 left.
Justus Rogers forced Jordan to fumble on Utah’s second drive of the game and Washington State took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when Borghi bounced outside and raced 8 yards for a touchdown.
The Cougars extended their lead to 14-0 midway through the second quarter on an 11-yard sprint up the middle from Deon McIntosh. Borghi set up Washington State’s second touchdown with a 37-yard run on third-and-9.
Utah’s offense finally showed some life when Covey caught a pass down the sideline and raced 91 yards to put the Utes on the board late in the second quarter. Covey’s catch was the second-longest pass play in school history for Utah.
The Cougars wasted no time answering the Utes.
De Laura completed three passes to Jamire Calvin, capped by an 8-yard touchdown grab, to march Washington State 75 yards in four plays. Then, Bentley threw an interception two plays later to Jahad Woods, who returned it 36 yards to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by De Laura that gave the Cougars a 28-7 lead going into halftime.
But Utah forced four second half turnover and shut the Cougars out to end the season on a 3-game winning streak.
“Guys on the sideline bringing the juice, bringing the energy,” said linebacker Devin Lloyd. “Whether it be the offense on the field or the defense on the field, that was a huge thing that helped us build momentum. It helped us through drives, and kept us in it. The energy in that second half was huge.”
“It was a great way and a very fitting way to end a weird season,” Whittingham said.