Seattle • In front of a sea of purple, against a team miffed at its own brief shortcomings, Utah’s once-promising season took another punch to the gut Saturday evening.
This was a different hurt. A heartbreaking hit.
There was no tornado of turnovers, no boring offensive display. Utah, behind its sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley, dazzled against one of the top defenses in college football.
And yet, it wasn’t enough.
Utah’s slide continued in the Pacific Northwest as the No. 16 Washington Huskies inched by the Utes in a 33-30 win at Husky Stadium.
Mishaps have plagued a season that in the first week of October was perfect, unblemished, with the hope that an elusive first Pac-12 South title was within reach.
Now, all that’s left is one night at Rice-Eccles Stadium to ensure a bowl berth that once seemed a guarantee. One week after being upset on the road at Stanford, Washington handed the Utes (5-6, 2-6) their sixth loss in their past seven outings.
Embattled Washington kicker Tristan Vizcaino drilled a game-winning 38-yard field goal as time expired. He was allowed to split the uprights after Utah called a timeout with 23 seconds remaining and the Huskies at their own 30-yard line.
Quarterback Jake Browning embraced the moment given to him, hitting back-to-back plays of 18 and 31 yards, putting Washington in field-goal range as Vizcaino ended it.
“I was trying to be aggressive and get the ball back for our offense,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Didn’t work out ... probably wouldn’t have called it in hindsight, but at the time, again trying to be aggressive and get the ball back to a guy who has about a 60-yard range.”
As the Huskies knocked on the door in the fourth quarter trailing the Utes by a touchdown, Utah linebacker Donavan Thompson and defensive tackle Filipo Mokofisi sent Browning skyward when the Husky attempted to make a spectacular leap for a first down on a fourth-and-8 at Utah’s 15-yard line. As Browning flipped high through the air, he came down short of the first down.
The Utah defense needed to hold one more time. Instead, Browning stepped into the spotlight.
Washington’s quarterback converted a fourth-and-10 from his own territory and engineered a late game-tying drive that resulted in a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Myles Gaskin with 58 seconds left — his third touchdown of the night — to tie the game at 30.
“I thought we played very well for about 58 minutes,” Whittingham said.
A quarterback draw from Huntley resulted in a 5-yard touchdown dive, which gave the Utes a 30-23 lead with 10:52 left in the fourth quarter. That came one play after Huntley dropped in a 39-yard pass down the middle of the field to reserve tight end Jake Jackson. Huntley finished with 293 passing yards and three total touchdowns.
“Every loss is tough,” Huntley said, “but the offense didn’t do enough. And we lost the game.”
It was the final play of a 10-play, 80-yard drive late in the third quarter that put Utah up 23-16. Huntley lofted an 11-yard touchdown pass to receiver Raelon Singleton — his second of the night — to give Utah the lead.
Washington answered in a flash. Browning lofted a pass over Utah cornerback Julian Blackmon and into the hands of Gaskin, who sprinted untouched down the sideline to knot the score at 23 with 42 seconds left in the third quarter.
“I read the play from the beginning and I just jumped it, but I came down at a bad angle and just missed it, missed the ball,” Blackmon said.
Record-setting performances by Washington’s two offensive stars helped the Huskies inch by the stingy Utes. Browning threw his 76th touchdown, breaking the former program record, while Gaskin rushed for his 38th career touchdown run — also a record — in the victory.
The Huskies overcame a sloppy first series to later capitalize on a flipped field. College football’s most-decorated punt returner, Dante Pettis, set up Washington at the Utah 32-yard line after Utah’s offense was unable to move the ball deep in Husky territory.
Washington methodically drove the ball from there, capping a seven-play drive with a 9-yard touchdown run by Gaskin.
Utah swung right back in the first quarter.
A decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 on the Washington 46-yard line paid immediate dividends. Soon after, Huntley hit a wide open Singleton in stride as Singleton out ran the Husky secondary en route to a 40-yard touchdown. It was the longest play from scrimmage Washington’s defense allowed all year.
A gutsy onside kick executed, however, did not result in another touchdown.
The Utah offense stalled in the red zone after back-to-back quarterback run plays by Huntley were stuffed by the Huskies defense, forcing the Utes to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Matt Gay to put Utah up 10-6 with 12:47 left in the second quarter.
It didn’t take long for Washington to snatch the lead back. A lengthy drive featured an exclamation mark as a broken play resulted in a touchdown. Browning evaded pressure from Utah’s Bradlee Anae to find running back Lavon Coleman who weaved his way through Utah defenders, diving into the end zone as Washington took a 13-10 lead.
The Utes and Huskies exchanged field goals to end the first half as Washington took a 16-13 lead.
Gay tied the game at 16 with a 25-yard field goal after Utah’s red-zone offense stalled again after a designed quarterback run on third down inside the 10-yard line.