University of Washington

Huskies let another lead slip away in 33-28 loss to No. 9 Utah

Washington Huskies offensive lineman Trey Adams (72) walks on the field after the game. The Washington Huskies played the Utah Utes in a NCAA football game at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.
Washington Huskies offensive lineman Trey Adams (72) walks on the field after the game. The Washington Huskies played the Utah Utes in a NCAA football game at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.

Two weeks ago, the first time this happened, Oregon linebacker Troy Dye dropped to his back on Washington’s logo and pretended to make a snow angel.

The second time, Utah wide receiver Samson Nacua handled the opposing team’s celebration. After greeting his brother, UW receiver Puka Nacua, Samson broke away from the gathering at midfield and half-high stepped, half-danced toward the cheering Utes’ fan section in the southeast corner of Husky Stadium.

Two games, but the same story: A promising start, a double-digit lead, a potential win over a top-15 team that slipped away. The Huskies had a two-touchdown advantage in the first half against then-No. 12 Oregon. They led by 11 points in the second quarter before falling to No. 9 Utah 33-28 on Saturday.

But in the end, Oregon’s players danced with their fans to a fight song. And the Utes? They raised their helmets under a waving red flag.

UW led 21-19 heading into the final quarter against Utah. But the cracks started to show at the end of the third, which led to another collapse in the fourth. While Utah picked up 132 yards and scored two touchdowns in the final quarter, the Huskies managed just a single touchdown with 1:01 remaining and 77 yards.

Against Oregon, the Huskies led 31-21 with 3:39 left in the third quarter. But by the end of the third, the Ducks trimmed that advantage to three points. UW didn’t score in the fourth, managing just 52 yards. Oregon’s lone touchdown was enough to seal the victory.

After the loss to Utah, quarterback Jacob Eason — who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in the defeat — didn’t have the answers. The Huskies know what they have to do in theory, but that hasn’t helped them much.

“Just got to play four quarters,” Eason said, shifting on the stool where he sat surrounded by media. “I don’t know. I don’t know what the problem is right now. We got to fix it. Part of that is on me being smart with the ball in those situations. I’ll take the blame there and move on and get better from it.”

Even in the 20-19, lightning-delayed loss to Cal in September, the Huskies once-held an early double-digit advantage. They jumped out to a 10-0 lead and were up 10-3 at halftime. But the Bears outscored UW 17-9 after the break.

Asked about the trend, head coach Chris Petersen echoed his quarterback. The problem he understands. The answer isn’t so clear.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We got to play better in the fourth quarter, for sure. Good teams are good teams for a reason. They play well when it matters and they are playing better than us when it matters. … They’re just self-inflicted wounds. I don’t know. I don’t know what to tell you. Day one stuff. Anxiety-levels go up against good teams and you make errors that you shouldn’t be making at this time.”

With 3:23 left in the third quarter, Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson returned Eason’s second interception 39 yards for a touchdown. After a failed two-point conversion, the Utes trimmed the Huskies’ advantage 21-19.

That’s when UW started to crumble.

The Huskies offense went three-and-out on back-to-back possessions after that. In between, Utah put together touchdown drives of 82 yards in nine plays and 84 yards in 11 plays. UW was called for two penalties on those possessions, one that added 8 yards to a 28-yard completion from Tyler Huntley to Nacua on third down.

“It’s really come to the last possession in all these games, which makes it even tougher to deal with,” said defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake. “But also, I’m really proud of the guys. I’m really proud of them fighting and scratching and clawing until the end.

“We’re going to learn a lot of hard lessons from these losses that we’re taking right now and these tight moments at the end of games. We know we’re right there, five to seven plays here or there, that changes the other way and the Dawgs come out with a victory.”

The Utes’ final touchdown gave them a 33-21 advantage with 4:52 remaining. UW then put together its only scoring drive of the second half, going 75 yards in 19 plays to trim the lead to five points. But the Huskies took 3 minutes and 51 seconds to do it, leaving just more than a minute on the clock. They attempted an onside kick, but Utah recovered and ran out the clock from there.

With four losses on the season, UW has three games and a bye week remaining. None of the opponents — Oregon State, Colorado and Washington State — are ranked. The list of goals to play for is dwindling. The only one left just might be pride.

“I wish I had the answer for you,” said offense coordinator Bush Hamdan, “but obviously we haven’t done it in the last two games. It’s extremely disappointing and we need to fix it.”

Lauren Kirschman is the UW Huskies beat writer for The News Tribune. She previously covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for A Pennsylvania native and a University of Pittsburgh graduate, she also covered college athletics for the Beaver County Times from 2012-2016.
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