Utah Rallies Past Washington State 24-13
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah running back TJ Pledger rushed for 177 yards and the go-ahead touchdown as Utah came from behind to beat Washington State 24-13 on Saturday afternoon in the Utes' Pac-12 opener.
Pledger, a transfer from Oklahoma who only had 11 yards coming into the game, ran 20 yards for a touchdown with 4:53 to play. Then Clark Phillips took an interception 54 yards for a score to clinch it with 2:19 remaining.
The Cougars (1-3, 0-2 Pac-12) forced seven fumbles, recovering three, with at least two others saved by replay. The last one came with 10:18 to play when Daniel Isom hit Chris Curry just before he crossed the goal line and Travion Brown recovered in the end zone.
Jarrett Guarantano went 25-of-36 passing for 248 yards but struggled to move the Cougars offense in the second half.
But the Utes (2-2, 1-0) shook off their fumble fingers and made all the big plays in the fourth quarter. Before the Utah offense got moving, the defense kept the Utes in the game with eight sacks and three interceptions.
Devin Lloyd, who also had three tackles for loss, jumped a bubble screen and intercepted Gaurantano's pass after tipping it. But backup QB Ja'Quinden Jackson fumbled two plays later and Jaylon Watson recovered for the Cougars on their 8-yard line.
On the first play of the second half, Ron Stone Jr. knocked the ball from Utah's Micah Bernard and Christian Mejia recovered. Two plays later, Guarantano connected with De'Zhaun Stribling for a 26-yard TD and a 13-7 lead.
After back-to-back losses, former Utah QB starter Charlie Brewer was told he'd been demoted and he left the program on Monday.
Cameron Rising, who had 137 yards passing, got his first start since last season's opener against Southern Cal when he injured his shoulder in the first quarter. Though he finished strong to force triple-overtime last week at San Diego State, the Utes again struggled to move the ball through the air with just 26 yards passing at halftime.
For the first time this season, the Utes brought extra pass rushers but that left the middle of the field open for WSU. Adjustments in the second half and a stronger rush quashed any chance of a Cougar comeback.
Utah's lone scoring drive of the first half consisted of all rushing plays - highlighted by Rising's 31-yard scamper and capped by Jackson's 2-yard TD run.
Washington State: The Cougars dominated time of possession but only gained 106 yards in the second half. Max Borghi had 42 yards rushing before leaving in the second quarter with a left arm injury and the WSU ground attack struggled the rest of the way while Guarantano was under constant pressure.
Utah: The Ute offense still doesn't look like a well-oiled machine but Utah rolled to 248 yards in the second half and was bolstered by another stout defensive performance. Britain Covey broke the school career punt-return yardage record and now has 902 yards.
Washington State: The Cougars play on Saturday at California
Utah: The Utes have a bye next week before visiting USC on Oct. 9.
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