SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) - The Utes once again ran into turnover trouble, and now their bowl game hopes are in trouble as well.
Washington State scored 23 of its 33 points off of 7 Utah turnovers, as the Utes committed too many mistakes in a 33-25 loss to the Cougars at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Utes (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) were able to cut the Cougar lead to eight points with 6:19 left in the game, but Washington State was able to force two interceptions in the final two minutes that included a Hail Mary pass by Troy Williams as time expired.
"Can't win, can't win doing that," head coach Kyle Whittingham said of the four interceptions and three fumbles. "The defense had their backs to the wall the entire first half. It could have very easily gotten out of hand in the first half. Again, the most important stat in football is the turnover margin, and were on the wrong end of that."
Tyler Huntley threw for 305 yards, but was intercepted three times and fumbled once.
"Washington State did a good job of taking the ball away from us, and we didn't do a good enough job of keeping the ball,"Huntley said. "It all came down to the end, but give it to WASU, they played a great game."
Demari Simpkins led the Utes with a career-high 99 receiving yards, but coughed up a fumble himself.
"I think we just pressed too much, trying to do too much," Simpkins said. "No way around that, we just made too many turnovers and didn't get enough takeaways."
Despite the turnovers, Huntley finished the game with 305 passing yards going 21-for-39, his third 300-yard passing game this season in front of the Utes 50thstraight sellout of Rice-Eccles Stadium. Huntley also added 51 yards on the ground.
Former Logan High star Luke Falk, the Pac-12's all-time passing yards leader, completed 40 of 69 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns for the Cougars.
The Cougars took a 7-0 lead on an 11-yard pass from Falk with 9:31 on the clock in the first quarter, ending a 46-yard, nine-play drive after Utah fumble. After an interception on the next Utah drive, Washington State was forced to settle on a 44-yard field goal after tight coverage by the Utah secondary kept them out of the end zone.
Utah's second fumble of the game led to Washington State' second field goal of the first quarter as the Cougars knocked in a 32-yarder to take a 13-0 lead with 3:49 remaining in the quarter. The scoring drive took 1:16 off the clock for just four plays and four yards.
The Utes got on the board with 11:19 left in the second quarter when Gay knocked in a 56-yarder. The 56-yard field goal cut the Washington State lead to 13-3, putting an end to the 11-play, 41-yard drive.
The momentum continued to go in Utah's direction as they narrowed Washington State's lead to just three points with 8:29 remaining in the second quarter. Thanks to a 71-yard pass from Huntley to Simpkins, the Utes found themselves in scoring territory. Zack Moss drove home the two-yard rushing touchdown to make it 13-10, ending a three-play, 80-yard drive.
But the Cougars took a 20-10 lead with 3:02 left to play on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Falk to Kyle Sweet.
Corrion Ballard opened the third quarter with his second interception of the season, returning it 35 yards to put Utah in good field position, but Huntley threw his second interception of the game on the next play to relinquish possession. Utah's defense held the Cougars to their third field goal of the game as they converted on a 28-yarder to end a four-play drive to make it 23-10 with 10:55 left in the quarter.
Washington State kicker Erick Powell continued putting up points for the kicker as he hit a 33-yard field goal with 6:15 left in the third quarter, giving the Cougars a 26-10 lead. It ended a 10-play, 44-yard drive that burned 2:56 off the clock.
Utah's offense got back on the scoreboard with 13:40 left in the fourth quarter when Moss punched through the defensive line for a one-yard rushing score on the heels of a seven-play, 43-yard drive. The Utes went for two with Huntley finding Siale Fakailoatonga for the conversion to cut the Washington State lead to 26-18.
The Utes were able to keep the Cougars out of the end zone for the next four minutes, but eventually Washington State snuck in a 6-yard passing score to take a 33-18 lead with 8:23 left in the game. It was a result of another fumble by the Utah offense, leading to the five-play, 14-yard scoring drive.
Utah was able to answer quickly when Huntley found Singleton in the end zone who was able to pull down the 12-yard catch under pressure. It cut the Washington State advantage to 33-25 with 6:19 remaining in the game to end a six-play, 75-yard drive.
On the next Washington State drive, Young came up with a huge interception to get the ball back. The Utes drove to the Washington State 48-yard-line, but the Utes third interception of the game ended the possession with 58 seconds left in the game. After the Cougars went 3-and-out, the Utes had one last effort toward the end zone, but it was picked off, sealing the 33-25 victory for the Cougars.
"As bad as it was, the kids are resilient," Whittingham said. "They never quit and fight until the bitter end."
Utah returns to action on Saturday, Nov. 18 when they head to Seattle, Wash. to take on the Washington Huskies in its final road game of the season. Utah needs to win one of its final two games to become bowl eligible.
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