The last time Bryson Barnes had played in a football game with high-pressure stakes, it was at Milford High School — a 1A program in southern Utah.
Then the freshman walk-on heard his number called at the Rose Bowl.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham called on the quarterback in the fourth quarter after Cam Rising suffered and injury on a tackle an did not return.
The Eagle Scout from the tiny Utah high school responded with a moment he’ll certainly never forget, even in a losing effort. Barnes led the Utah offense down the field and threw the touchdown pass to tight end Dalton Kincaid that tied the game with less than two minutes to go in the game.
“I couldn’t be more proud of what Bryson Barnes did when he came in,” Whittingham said. “Came into a tough situation and led the team right down the field for the tying touchdown.”
Whittingham said Barnes, who holds the state high school record for touchdown passes in a career with 137 and won the 1A MVP in 2018 — was the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart for the game, ahead of backup Ja’Quinden Jackson.
Barnes set up the 15-yard touchdown pass by running the ball himself and securing the first down on second-and-9. He threw a long pass into the end zone to wide receiver Britain Covey that was incomplete, but the referees called a pass interference penalty on the play.
Whittingham said that also he could have milked the clock down the stretch, but he didn’t want to put too much on Barnes’s plate.
“With Bryson in there, very little experience, we didn’t want to put any more strategic stuff on his plate than we had to,” Whittingham said.
Barnes ended his brief Cinderella story with 23 passing yards and the one touchdown pass. He also rushed for 10 yards.