PULLMAN, Wash. (ABC4 Sports) – In his first career start, backup quarterback Bryson Barnes threw for 175 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for another 51 yards as No. 14 Utah beat Washington State 21-17 on Thursday night to stay in the hunt for the Pac-12 championship game.

Barnes, who started in place of injured Cam Rising, completed 17 of 27 passes for Utah (6-2, 4-1), which was off last week after edging Southern California in a 43-42 shootout Oct. 15.

“Gutsy performance by our guys,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Found a way to win, which is obviously the bottom line.”

Rising had practiced all week, and Whittingham said that Barnes didn’t find out he was starting until pre-game warmups.

“There’s always a possibility with things like that,” Barnes said. “You have to be prepared either way, so when that time comes, you have to be able to step up to the plate and be ready to go.”

“Proud of Bryson Barnes,” Whittingham said. “Bryson Barnes came in in a pretty tough situation and performed well. He did a good job running the offense. We weren’t as prolific offensively as we were in some games this year, did have one turnover, but other than that, we did a pretty good job moving the chains.”

The Utes were also without starting running back Tavion Thomas, who did not make the trip to Pullman, while Micah Bernard was severely limited with just three carries.

Jaylon Glover and Ja’Quendin Jackson carried the bulk of the load on the ground. Glover rushed for 76 yards on 20 carries, while Jackson had 43 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown.

After a scoreless first quarter, Washington State scored on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Ward to De’Zhaun Stribling early in the second quarter. Ward completed his first 12 passes.

Utah replied with a 65-yard drive that ended when Jackson plowed over from the 6-yard line for his second touchdown of the season.

Utah was forced to punt late in the second quarter, but the ball hit receiver Robert Ferrel in the leg and was recovered by the Utes at the Washington State 25. Jaylon Glover drove in from the 1-yard line with 20 seconds left in the half to give Utah a 14-7 lead.

Dalton Kincaid caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Barnes late in the third quarter to lift Utah to a 21-7 lead. Kincaid left the game after that touchdown with an apparent shoulder injury.

Washington State replied immediately, with Ward running 7 yards up the middle early in the fourth to cut Utah’s lead to 21-14.

Jackson fumbled midway through the fourth and the ball was recovered by Washington State’s Tanner Moku deep in Utah territory. Dean Janikowski kicked a 42-yard field goal to cut Utah’s lead to 21-17 with less than five minutes left in the game. But Utah was able to run out the clock.

Rising’s absence came as a surprise, as he took pregame warmup snaps with the first team offense. Rising has thrown for 1,855 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, but suffered an apparent leg injury after throwing for 415 yards and accounting for five touchdowns last week against USC, and was held out for precautionary reasons.

“If Cam says he can’t play, he can’t play,” Whittingham said. “There’s no questioning him whatsoever, no doubting him whatsoever. He’s the last guy that wants to miss a game.”

“We feel confident in Bryson, we see him every day in practice,” linebacker Mohamoud Diabate said. “He’s just as good as anybody in the country. When we saw him step out there, I didn’t lose one bit of confidence in winning this game. We just knew we had to do our jobs the same as any other week.”

Cameron Ward completed 27 of 31 passes for 222 yards for Washington State (4-4, 1-4), which has lost four of its past five games and was also off a week ago. The Cougars were without rushing leader Nakia Watson and top receiver Renard Bell because of injuries.

The Utes out-gained the Cougars in total yards, 344-264.

Utah, the defending Pac-12 champion, needed a victory to stay in range of Oregon, UCLA and USC for a berth in the league title game.

Utah next hosts Arizona on Nov. 5.