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Utah rallies to beat Washington State 45-28 in season finale

Cougars outscored 38-0 in second half

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Utah running back Ty Jordan (22) runs from Washington State linebacker Jahad Woods (13) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Salt Lake City.
Utah running back Ty Jordan (22) runs from Washington State linebacker Jahad Woods (13) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) Photo Gallery

SALT LAKE CITY — Drew Lisk seriously considered ending his football career at Utah following the end of his junior year after spending four mostly frustrating seasons buried on the depth chart at quarterback.

After weighing his options, Lisk decided to return for his senior season. The Utes couldn’t be happier he decided to stick around.

Lisk helped rally Utah to a 45-28 victory over Washington State on Saturday. His final stat line doesn’t pop out on the box score. He threw for 152 yards in relief of usual starter Jake Bentley. But Lisk’s composure and confidence in leading the offense helped the Utes erase a 21-point halftime deficit.

“He’s like a coach on the field,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “You saw the legend of Drew Lisk was born in that second half.”

Along with Lisk, Ty Jordan and Britain Covey played critical roles in the second-half rally. Jordan ran for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Covey added a career-high 134 yards and a touchdown on six catches.

Utah (3-2, 3-2 Pac-12) outscored Washington State 38-0 in the second half to notch its third straight victory to end the 2020 season.

Jayden De Laura threw for 204 yards, a touchdown, and an interception to lead the Cougars. Max Borghi added 95 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Washington State (1-3, 1-3) closed the 2020 season with its third straight loss.

Lisk breathed new life into Utah’s offense after Bentley got benched late in the second quarter. He led Utah on three straight second-half touchdown drives that brought the Utes even with the Cougars at 28-all. Jordan scored twice on the three drives and tied it with 12:01 left when he bounced outside on fourth-and-2 and sprinted 33 yards untouched down the sideline for the score.

“I just knew it was time to go,” Lisk said. “The biggest thing is these guys on this team trust me and I trust them. There was never a doubt. We just needed to go out and execute.”

Washington State committed turnovers on its final four drives to open the door for Utah to take the lead and complete an improbable comeback.

Clark Phillips snagged two of the turnovers himself. Phillips recovered a fumble by Borghi, setting up Jordan’s 13-yard go-ahead run that gave Utah its first lead at 35-28. Then, the freshman returned an interception 36 yards for Utah’s final score with 2:06 left.

“I loved the first half,” Washington State coach Nick Rolovich said. “Defense played great and offense was efficient moving the ball. The second half was a completely different story.”

Justus Rogers forced Jordan to fumble on Utah’s second drive of the game and Washington State took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when Borghi bounced outside and raced 8 yards for a touchdown.

The Cougars extended their lead to 14-0 midway through the second quarter on an 11-yard sprint up the middle from Deon McIntosh. Borghi set up Washington State’s second touchdown with a 37-yard run on third-and-9.

Utah’s offense finally showed some life when Covey caught a pass down the sideline and raced 91 yards to put the Utes on the board late in the second quarter. Covey’s catch was the second-longest pass play in school history for Utah.

The Cougars wasted no time answering the Utes.

De Laura completed three passes to Jamire Calvin, capped by an 8-yard touchdown grab, to march Washington State 75 yards in four plays. Then, Bentley threw an interception two plays later to Jahad Woods, who returned it 36 yards to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by De Laura that gave the Cougars a 28-7 lead going into halftime.

Then momentum completely shifted Utah’s way over the final 30 minutes.

“A switch got flipped on our end in that we just kind of stopped playing,” offensive tackle Abe Lucas said.

THE TAKEAWAY

Washington State: The Cougars made a series of big plays on both sides of the ball to build a comfortable lead and then unraveled under intense defensive pressure over the final two quarters.

Utah: The Utes struggled to get on track until making a change at quarterback on their final series before halftime. Lisk ran the offense during the second half and moved the chains like a poised veteran.

CATCHING FIRE

Jordan topped 100 yards rushing for the third consecutive game after beginning the season as Utah’s No. 3 back on the depth chart. The freshman averaged 156 yards on the ground over his final three games of the season.

His emergence prompted both running backs formerly ahead of him, Devin Brumfield and Jordan Wilmore, to enter the transfer portal earlier in the week. Jordan is already drawing comparisons to great Utah running backs from past seasons, but he feels like he still has work to do to get there.

“I know I’ve got some big shoes to fill and I haven’t got there yet,” Jordan said. “So I’m staying hungry and staying humble.”

LOCKING IT DOWN

Utah allowed just 15 yards rushing and 108 total yards in the second half. Washington State averaged 3.4 yards per play after halftime. The Utes forced three straight three-and-outs and then four straight turnovers on the Cougars’ eight second-half drives.

QUOTABLE

“By the looks of the first half, you would have thought we opted out of that half and the bowl game.” — Kyle Whittingham on Utah’s first-half performance.

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