Washington Huskies Mutilate Utah Utes in Pac-12 Pickfest
Who says karma is only for balding hippies wearing bed sheets and hanging around city parks?
Following a relaxing bye week with summer-like weather enticing a sea of Utah Ute fans donned in red, this first-ever Pac12 game at Rice-Eccles Stadium (where?) would be Utah’s chance to snap a dreaded six game losing streak to the hated Dawgs of Seattle after waiting since 1979 for the opportunity.
And yet on the opening kickoff, the newcomers did their impression of a Bishop Sankey kickoff reception in Nebraska.
The Ute’s Ryan Lankey coughed up the ball with only seconds gone to start the game, after Husky Garret Gilliland drilled him and shook the ball loose, which wandered and squiggled right into the arms of a streaking Jamaal Kearse, who graciously raced the gift 10 yards without breaking his stride for a quick UW touchdown.
That, as it turned out, would actually be a highlight for the newly-come-hither Utah Utes of Salt Lake City.
Especially when Husky defensive end Josh Shirley, starting in his first-ever collegiate game, raced around the line and splattered Utah starting QB Jordan Wynn for a six yard loss in their first snap from scrimmage. Followed by another stinker up the middle for a one yard loss.
A pass completion later it was fourth down and a punt and an ugly three-and-out for the Utah Utes in their sorta-cool packed out stadium, with houses peeking over the far end zone and sun shining brilliantly. Fans across the Root Sports network were getting their first look at Uteville.
It shone more brilliantly for Dawg fans when the Huskies got their opening drive and quickly stampeded downfield on two pass completions and four Chris Polk runs, before finally running out of gas on a failed 4th-and-1 at Utah’s 32.
Polk appeared to stumble over his own feet, and by the time he recovered, momentum had suddenly shifted to the home squad, who took over at midfield.
Starting at their own 32, Wynn threw a surprise sideline bomber to Ute wide receiver pal Devonte Christopher, who made a spectacular catch and 68 yard touchdown romp before it was ruled he stepped out of bounds back on the Husky 32. But by just a hair.
Not to worry, because Wynn tossed a drifter to Dres Anderson in the end zone several plays later to knot the score at 7-7.
And after the Huskies suddenly looked lethargic and frat-party tired in route to a three-and-out, seven plays later Utah failed on their own 4th-and-6 after marching downfield to the Husky 37.
But alas, bad things continued to happen to good people, when a snappy low pass from Keith Price skipped off the fingertips of 5-Star recruit Husky freshman Seferian-Jenkins, and into the lap of the Ute’s JJ William at the Utah 34.
Suddenly, what looked to be a 14-0 Husky lead, was dangerously close to morphing into a 14-7 deficit, especially when John White nailed back-to-back 6 yard scampers to the Utah 40 to end the first quarter, and followed with eight straight successful plays which was finally snuffed when Sean Parker picked off a Jordan Wynn pass at the 4-yard line.
Three plays and a first down later from deep in goalpost shadows, things nearly turned Cornhusker bad when Chris Polk, running for his life, fumbled on his own 6-yard line but managed to pounce on it.
A Keil punt later combined with a brain-dead kick receiver penalty, and Utah was in business starting at the Husky 40-yard line. Desmond Trufant, who was being picked on for some reason, aided the drive with a mutilation of Dres Anderson in the red zone.
But on the very next play, Trufant both forced and recovered a Ute fumble on the 6-yard line. A clear momentum-changer for the Huskies, since what easily could have been a 21-7 Utah lead was still tied 7-7 after two critical Ute turnovers deep in the red zone.
The Huskies kept the ball the remainder of the half, helped by two knucklehead Ute 15 yard personal fouls, and finally finished the half with a 44 yard Erik Folk field goal and an undeserved 10-7 lead at the last two ticks of the first half.
At halftime, things would take a dramatic turn in Washington’s favor.
After an opening touchdown drive making it 17-7 Huskies, Utah went three-and-out, but pined the Huskies deep in the red zone again when Kayson Williams unwisely attempted to return the kick and was dog-piled at his own 6-yard line.
Chris Polk took over, with runs of 10 and 12 yards, finally ending at midfield after blowing a 3rd-and-1 when Price heaved a wayward desperation pass on a busted play action. Fans across the nation wondered why that play had been run, when Chris Polk was running like a mad man and chewing up both time and yardage at will.
But when Utah finally got the ball back with seven minutes left in the third quarter, Gregory Ducre picked off Utah’s replacement QB John Hays’ first pass with a brilliant over-the-top sideline pick.
And with Kieth Price imitating wooden-legged pirates due to his on-going knee-gone-bad, he drilled a bullet barely past the fingertips of Utah’s Brian Blechen for a game-dominating 24-7 lead, when Kearse scampered the remaining 23 yards for a UW TD.
It was now 24-7 with seven minutes left in the third quarter, and the game was effectively over.
And when the Huskies opened the fourth quarter with a 14 play touchdown drive that consumed almost eight minutes, what had been a Utah-dominated game was suddenly a Husky laugher.
Polk rushed for 143 yards on 17 carries in the second half alone, as the Huskies piled on 24 unanswered points since the field goal ending the first half.
The Ute’s backup quarterback, a transfer from the defunct Nebraska-Omaha program, did his best, including a nifty suicide hurdle into Cort Dennison for a desperation first down.
But with Chris Polk gaining strength as the Utah defense grew more winded with each drive, there was little they could do. Especially when Kieth Price kept nailing time-consuming short passes that finally ended with the Huskies up 31-7 with 9:17 left in the game.
For Husky fans still wheezing from the stench of the Kieth Gilberson recruiting classes, it was a welcome sight to see the Huskies finally back doing what Husky teams do. Dominate in the third quarter and draining the clock in the fourth for the kill.
Utah would manage to score again with seven seconds left in the game, but by that time the vast majority of Ute fans had been sipping beverages and drinking away the pain of it all, in their favorite sports bars for an hour.
It was a surprising win for a suddenly powerful-looking 4-1 Husky Dawg squad, and with the hapless Colorado Buffaloes coming off another loss against WSU this afternoon, Washington fans haven’t been this happy in over five years!
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