PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Easop Winston Jr. caught the football over his shoulder, made a couple of sweet moves to shed a defender, and completed an 89-yard touchdown play that lifted Washington State to a 28-24 victory over Utah on Saturday.
Winston said he could hear the roar of the crowd as he made the catch late in the fourth quarter, and had only one thought on his mind.
“I just had to get in the end zone,” Winston said. “Just get in the end zone.”
After Winston scored with 4:14 left in the game, Utah had one last chance to score. But the Utes turned the ball over on downs after a penalty-plagued possession and Washington State won its 10th consecutive home game.
Washington State (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) shredded the nation’s No. 1 defense for 445 total yards.
Utah (2-2, 0-2) was coming off a bye week. The Utes defense came in allowing just 12.3 points and 204 yards per game.
Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew completed 31 of 56 passes for three touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for a touchdown.
“This game was all about resiliency,” Minshew said, after the Cougars were shut out for most of the second half.
Minshew said he saw that Winston, who caught four passes for 115 yards, drew just one defender on the play that produced the winning touchdown.
“I saw they were one on one with a guy who is pretty much unguardable one on one,” Minshew said.
After the catch, “I was waiting for him to get caught and he never did,” Minshew said.
Utah only managed to score one field goal in the second half.
“Our defense studded up in the second half,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “One big play and that was obviously the back breaker.”
“We did a lot of positive things that were negated by penalties”, he said.
“This team has a lot of character, a lot of heart,” Whittingham said. “They’ll come back ready to go to work on Monday.”
Washington State marched to the Utah 17 on the opening drive, but Minshew was intercepted by Corrion Ballard near the end zone to end the scoring threat.
On the ensuing series, Utah’s Britain Covey appeared to fumble after catching a pass and the ball was recovered by Washington State. But safety Skyler Thomas was called for targeting and ejected from the game and Utah retained the ball at midfield. Quarterback Tyler Huntley ran up the middle for 24 yards and a 7-0 Utah lead.
Minshew threw a short touchdown pass to Tay Martin on the next series to tie the score.
Zach Moss ran for a 6-yard touchdown to put Utah ahead. Minshew bootlegged 10 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 14-14.
After Utah’s first punt, Minshew fired a 65-yard touchdown pass to a streaking Dezmon Patmon, who caught the ball near midfield and ran untouched into the end zone.
Utah tied the score at 21-21 on Huntley’s 1-yard plunge, and that stood at halftime.
The defenses took over in the second half.
Matt Gay kicked a 41-yard field goal on the first possession of the third to put Utah ahead 24-21. Blake Mazza tried a 52-yard field goal on the next series for WSU, but it was blocked by Maxs Tupai.
In the fourth, Minshew lofted an 89-yard touchdown pass to Winston to take a 28-24 lead with 4:14 left. Utah turned the ball over on downs with 50 seconds left when Huntley’s pass fell short on fourth-and-20.
Utah: The Utes’ slumbering offense woke up, but the defense could not stop WSU’s Air Raid in the first half. “It doesn’t get any easier with a road trip to Stanford,” Whittingham said of the next game.
Washington State: Washington State has won 10 straight home games, dating to its latest home loss in 2016. It’s the Cougars’ longest streak since winning nine in a row from 1941-46 (there was no football in 1943-44 because of the war). “Protecting our home is one of our big things,” said WSU defensive lineman Will Rodgers.
Utah running back Zack Moss rushed for 106 yards and quarterback Huntley ran for 88 yards. But the Utes managed only 118 yards through the air.
Washington State linebacker Peyton Pelluer led all players with 13 tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss. The sack was huge, forcing Utah to punt on its second-to-last possession. “It was a special feeling,” Pelluer said. “Hearing the crowd erupt.”
Utah plays at No. 7 Stanford next Saturday
Washington State plays at Oregon State next Saturday.
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