Arizona State pulled itself back within two points of the Utes entering the fourth and final period, and kicked the ball off to Utah looking to get off the field and give the offense a chance to take the team’s first lead since the first quarter.
Instead, Utah knifed through the Sun Devil defense over the course of a 10-play, 75-yard drive, extending its lead to 35-26 on a 24-yard to catch by Raelon Singleton - his third of the night.
The teams traded punts on the following two possessions, and with 7:19 left had a chance to climb back within one possession. Rather, Manny Wilkins was picked off by Chase Hansen, who returned it back 34 yards for the clinching score.
Utah added another touchdown before things were said and done, and by the time the clock struck midnight on the Sun Devils the 49-26 loss was final.
Trailing 21-20 at the halfway mark, the Sun Devils started the second half with a bang before the Utes regained control. ASU opened the second half with possession and quickly marched down to the Utah 24-yard line, as a trick play set up a 22-yard completion to Frederick Gammage deep in Utah territory. But the ensuing play earned a delay of game penalty on the Sun Devils, and the drive stalled from there. An 11-yard sack of Wilkins and a fumble by the ASU quarterback on third down pushed ASU back to the 50-yard line, where Matt Haack punted away to the Utes.
On their first play from scrimmage in the second half, Utah reclaimed the momentum that had eluded them in the opening periods. Joe Williams - who retired from football in September before coming back to the Utah program - broke two Sun Devil tackles near the line of scrimmage and scampered freely the rest of the way down the right sideline for an 82-yard score to push its lead to 28-20.
Following an ASU three-and-out, the Utes took a chance on a 4th and 1 play from the Arizona State 36-yard line, handing the ball off to the running back that on the previous drive took a first down handoff to the house. But the ASU defense shot the gaps and stuffed Williams for a two-yard loss to give the ball and much-needed field position to the Sun Devils.
ASU made good on its field position, driving down to the Utah red zone as a pair of completions to N’Keal Harry carried the Sun Devils deep into Ute territory. Tim White then hauled in his first receiving score of the season, corralling a back-shoulder throw from Wilkins for the 12-yard score. Aiming to tie the game at 28 apiece, the Sun Devils ran a two-point conversion attempt, choosing to conduct a series of laterals in a trick play rather than go with the Sparky formation. The trick play ended with Wilkins being tackles behind the line of scrimmage, and ASU entered the fourth quarter trailing 28-26.
It didn’t take long at all - one play to be exact - for Arizona State to send shockwaves through Sun Devil Stadium. Opening the night with the ball, the Utes’ first play from scrimmage was reminiscent of the opening play from a certain Denver-Seattle Super Bowl. Troy Williams wasn’t ready for the snap, but the snap was ready for him, and the ball bounced off of Williams and to the turf, where George Lea scooped it up for the Sun Devils.
Given the ball in the red zone, the Sun Devils were only 14 yards away from getting on the board first. After converting a 4th and 1 to keep the drive alive, the Sun Devils choked the ball up as Wilkins hesitated too long in throwing to a receiver in the end zone as Utah’s Marcus Williams roved over and picked off the pass.
It was only a few plays later that ASU forced another Utah turnover, as another Troy Williams fumble handed the Sun Devils the ball back at the Ute 48-yard line. A 24-yard completion to Harry moved ASU into the red zone and Zane Gonzalez finished the drive by doing what Zane does best and knocked a 24-yard field goal through the uprights to take an early 3-0 lead.
Following a drive in which the Sun Devils forced a quick Utah three-and-out, ASU took over at its 33-yard line and immediately pulled out the bag of tricks. Chip Lindsay sent in a trick play, and it resulted in a 46-yard completion from N’Keal Harry (you read that right) to Frederick Gammage. After Kalen Ballage’s 12-yard rumble pushed the Sun Devils close to the goal-line, ASU went with the Sparky formation and hammered home the touchdown. After another Gonzalez field goal, the Sun Devils entered the second quarter with a 13-0 advantage over the 15th-ranked Utes.
The double-digit lead didn’t last long though, as Utah’s opening drive in the second quarter tightened the strings in a tense affair. Arizona State’s penchant for poor tackling reared its ugly head again, as Troy Williams connected with Raelon Singleton for a 64-yard catch-and-run to pull back within 13-7.
Arizona State’s offense that was so potent in the first quarter struggled to bridge its success into the second period, opening the quarter with consecutive punts. After Troy Williams found Cory Butler-Byrd in the corner of the end zone for a 16-yard score to pull Utah ahead 14-13, the Sun Devils answered with its third straight punt of the quarter.
On Utah’s ensuing drive, a personal foul wiped out what would’ve been a first down, and the Sun Devils reclaimed the ball at their 8-yard line with roughly six minutes on the clock. Arizona State went on to put together its most-impressive drive of the night, marching down to the Utah 41-yard line as Wilkins picked up 17 yards on a 3rd and 4 scramble. The next play saw a trick play set up for Harry, putting him in position again to throw the ball deep. However the receiver was covered, and Harry was forced to turn the ball upfield. Turn upfield he did, juking out three Utes at once before weaving his way through the rest of the Utah secondary, receiving one final block from Ballage to spring him on an incredible 31-yard score.
Immediately after putting together a 92-yard touchdown drive, the Sun Devils failed to capitalize on that momentum on the defensive side of the ball. Utah orchestrated an 11-play, 82-yard drive that culminated in Singleton’s second touchdown of the evening, scoring on a 17-yard grab to pull Utah ahead 21-20 heading into the locker room for halftime.