For about 30 minutes on a sloppy Saturday afternoon in Seattle, the Washington Huskies found themselves in a dog fight.

Every punch they landed against a reeling Utah team was met in kind by the Utes if not and then some.

The Utes, somehow 7-2 entering the game, despite missing a roster’s worth of all-conference talent, showed all the fight they surprisingly lacked in a 29-point Week 9 home loss to Oregon, one of the most one-sided outcomes in recent Utah history.

When Washington scored first on a gritty 2-yard Dillon Johnson touchdown run in the first quarter, Utah’s Ja’Quinden Jackson answered with a 2-yard score of his own less than 3 minutes later. After Washington hit a late first field goal, the Utes took their first lead with a Miki Sugururaga touchdown catch from Bryson Barnes. Then the Huskies responded with a 34-yard Michael Penix-to-Rome Odunze touchdown pass, their first of two on the day, only for Barnes to hit Sione Vaki for a 53-yard touchdown. Then, again, after Johnson scored his second touchdown of the game, Jackson responded with another one of his own.

And this was all before halftime.

Well, whatever Kalen DeBoer — or defensive coordinator William Inge — said at halftime worked.

The Huskies proved their mettle in the 3rd quarter of an eventual 35-28 home win, reeling off 11 straight points before a scoreless fourth quarter in which they played keep away from the Utes.

“A tale of two halves there, really,” Kalen DeBoer said after the game. “Kind of a shootout first half, and then the second half, both teams and the defenses really settled in. … I’m proud of the fight, proud of the way our guys just as a team come together when it matters most. We knew Utah — they’re a very good football team, and we knew when you’re the 2-time Pac-12 defending champions that you’re not going to go away lightly. We knew they’d bring everything they have.”

It wasn’t the prettiest win. It wasn’t the smoothest win. But it was arguably Washington’s toughest win of the season, enough to keep them undefeated at 10-0 for just the 2nd time in program history and on track for a College Football Playoff bid.

If they can clean up their act.


After the win, DeBoer summed up his feelings on luck and life.

“You make your own breaks,” DeBoer said. “The breaks don’t always go your way, it isn’t guaranteed that you’re going to be able to come through. But when you prepare hard and continue to play and fight, that’s really what happens.”

Well if any team has had breaks go against it this year, it’s Utah.

The woebegone Utes have dealt with injury after injury, several of the season-ending variety, to star after star. The latest? Stud young linebacker Lander Barton, who joined the likes of Cam Rising, Brant Kuithe and a host of other sidelined stars.

They could’ve folded like they did against the Ducks, however uncharacteristically, but instead, the Pig Farmer came to brawl.

Utah backup-turned-starter Bryson Barnes was lights out in the first half, completing 13-of-17 passes for 238 yards and 2 scores, including 8 straight completions at one point, going for 160 yards and the two scores.

Up until their fateful 3rd frame, Barnes and the Utes just wouldn’t go away.

The 2nd half proved a different story, as Barnes went just 3-for-9 and Utah went scoreless.

“We just did a better job of tackling,” DeBoer said. “In the first half there were some short plays we broke, and some plays we could’ve done a better job with.”


Maybe it wasn’t what DeBoer said at all that turned the tide. Perhaps nothing the coaches said whatsoever.

The best teams in college football are player-led, and if that is not just about the best anecdote to come out of Seattle on Saturday, I don’t know what is.

Then again, the best teams in college football are also much more detail-oriented than the Huskies, who continue to be much too big play-centric, and far too sloppy for true title consideration.

It wasn’t only Washington’s tackling that was sloppy early.

Coming into Saturday’s games, Michigan had just 24 total penalties for 208 yards on the year, a reasonable 2-stretch for the Huskies. Georgia? Just 39. Washington? Tied for 114th nationally with 67 penalties for 697 yards.

On Saturday, the Huskies were flagged 11 times for 100 yards.

“There’s something to be said about not panicking,” DeBoer said. “There are times we could extend our lead and finish it out with a 10-point or 14-point (win). You look at those things as what could we have done better? How can we learn from it?”

But, ultimately, the Huskies won.

Despite the so-so start and the pile of yellow laundry, the Pac-12’s last unblemished team stayed unblemished.

“You have to play 4 quarters, especially in our league right now, “ DeBoer said. “It’s going to be a fistfight. It’s going to come down to the end.”