No. 5 Washington holds off No. 18 Utah, stays undefeated with 35-28 win

No. 5 Washington continues to find a way.

The Huskies found themselves in a four-quarter battle with No. 18 Utah on Saturday in Seattle but were able to stay undefeated with a hard-fought 35-28 victory.

It wasn’t the prettiest performance from Washington, but UW made the big plays when it mattered to get to 10-0 and inch closer to a berth in the Pac-12 title game and a possible trip to the College Football Playoff.

The Huskies trailed 28-24 at halftime but managed to pitch a second-half shutout, flipping that four-point deficit into a seven-point victory. The UW defense struggled to contain the Utah offense throughout the first half, but the Huskies dominated the second half.

All the while, Michael Penix Jr. and the Huskies continued to move the ball on offense. The teams traded punts to open the third quarter before Penix — one of the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy — led the Huskies on two scoring drives. UW cut Utah’s lead to 28-27 with a field goal and then went ahead when Penix found Rome Odunze behind the defense for a 33-yard touchdown to put UW ahead 33-28.

On the next drive, Utah managed to move the ball into Washington territory — until something crazy happened.

Utah quarterback Bryson Barnes was intercepted by Alphonzo Tuputala and Tuputala had a path to the end zone. Barnes was hot in pursuit, but the Washington linebacker was able to speed past him and toward the goal line.

There was one problem, though. He dropped the ball before he entered the end zone, allowing a Utah lineman to fall on the loose ball and return possession to the Utes at their own 1-yard line. It looked like a play that could be costly, but Tuputala’s defensive teammates quickly picked him up.

On the very next play, Tuli Letuligasenoa and Carson Bruener leaked into the backfield and brought down Utah’s Ja’Quinden Jackson for a safety, increasing the Washington lead to 35-28 with 24 seconds left in the third quarter.

From there, Washington just tried to hold on. It looked like the Huskies would be able to put the finishing touches on a win when they embarked on a 12-play drive deep into Utah territory, taking up much of the fourth-quarter clock in the process.

However, a 32-yard field goal try that would have given them a 10-point lead with under two minutes to play was blocked. With the score still 35-28, Utah suddenly had a chance.

But the Huskies’ defense would not let up. Utah didn’t gain a single yard on its final drive and the victory was sealed with an interception on fourth down. That finally allowed Washington to run out the clock and close out the win.

Penix finished the game with 332 passing yards and three total touchdowns — two passing and one rushing. Both of his passing scores went to Odunze, who had 111 yards and those two TDs on only three receptions. Dillon Johnson, on the heels of his 256 yards and four TDs in last week's win over USC, followed that up with 104 yards and a score on 23 carries.

Looking ahead, Washington has a tough game next weekend with a trip to Corvallis to face No. 12 Oregon State before closing out the regular season at home against rival Washington State in the Apple Cup.

The Huskies' last six wins have been decided by 10 points or fewer. That includes the dramatic 36-33 win over No. 6 Oregon back on Oct. 14. Since then, the Ducks have been dominant. Oregon is 8-1 (5-1 Pac-12) entering Saturday night's game vs. USC and looks poised for a rematch with Washington in the Pac-12 title game in Las Vegas on Dec. 1.