Utah pivoted from an all-conference quarterback to a sophomore walk-on and former pig farmer right before kickoff in a Thursday night conference clash in hostile confines and it still won a football game.

At the dawn of the 2022 calendar year, Bryson Barnes got his shot to be a hero in the Rose Bowl, coming in late against Ohio State for an injured Cameron Rising and attempting to deliver a program-defining win. He couldn’t quite pull the Utes across the finish line.

The stakes weren’t nearly as high Thursday night in Pullman — though the Rose Bowl was on the periphery for the Utes, even from the Palouse — but this time Barnes delivered a victory.

“Team win,” linebacker Mo Diabate told reporters after the Utes wrapped up a 21-17 victory of Washington State. “We’re confident in Bryson.”

Coach Kyle Whittingham revealed soon after that Rising informed the team just before kickoff he didn’t feel like he could play. Barnes was thrust into a starting spot on the road. He learned of the change of plans right before kickoff.

“You always talk about preparing when the time comes, and the time came,” he said.

Barnes completed 17 of his 27 passes for 175 yards and a score. On a fourth-and-7 play with under a minute remaining, he was trusted to put the ball in the air. He didn’t complete a pass, but Utah drew a defensive holding penalty in coverage and advanced the ball anyway to close out the game in the victory formation.

Whittingham called it a “gutsy performance” by the team. Utah was not only without Rising, but also starting running back Tavion Thomas. Backup runner Micah Bernard was limited to three early touches. Tight end Dalton Kincaid appeared to injury his right shoulder in the third quarter.

Whittingham didn’t have an update on Kincaid after.

Of Thomas, who has been up and down all season, Whittingham said they hope to get him back soon.

”If Cam says he can’t play, he can’t play,” the coach said of his quarterback. “He’s a warrior.”

Ja’Quinden Jackson — a quarterback to begin the season but now filling a need at running back — stayed at tailback for the game. Freshman Nate Johnson was the No. 2 quarterback behind Barnes, though Jackson would have been the No. 3 option if it came to that.

Rising had a sleeve on his left knee when he went through warmups before the game. The star quarterback met with local reporters on Monday and reportedly had the same knee wrapped up while walking with a limp.

“I’m still upright,” he told reporters then.

Whittingham stressed that they trusted Rising to make his own call on his health coming out of the bye week. He practiced throughout the week like he’d be the guy on Thursday.

When he wasn’t, Barnes had to step in with little prep.

A win’s a win. And now Rising gets even more time to rest up and get ready for Arizona. If he plays when the Utes host the Wildcats on Nov. 5, that would be 21 days between games for the Utah starter.