SALT LAKE CITY >> TJ Pledger rushed for 117 yards and the go-ahead touchdown as Utah came from behind to beat a Washington State team that was hit by tragic news before the game.
The WSU players were dealing with more than what was happening between the lines. Early Saturday morning near the WSU campus, one person was killed and Brandon Gray, a junior wide receiver, was also shot and is in serious but stable condition. The news shook the travel team, which was already in Salt Lake City.
“We have so much respect for this team for how they played. I know we didn’t win. I know we weren’t great. But for them to go out and play as hard as they did with the news they got this morning about their teammate I think is a tribute to their character. All we can do right now is pray for Gray,” WSU coach Nick Rolovich said.
Pledger, a transfer from Oklahoma who only had 11 yards coming into the game, ran 20 yards for a touchdown with 4:53 to play, leading the Utes to a 24-13 Pac-12-opening win.
Clark Phillips took an interception 54 yards for a score to clinch it with 2:19 remaining.
The Cougars (1-3, 0-2 Pac-12) forced seven fumbles, recovering three, with at least two others saved by replay. The last one came with 10:18 to play when Daniel Isom hit Chris Curry just before he crossed the goal line and Travion Brown recovered in the end zone.
Jarrett Guarantano, playing for injured starter Jayden de Laura of Saint Louis, was 25-for-36 passing for 248 yards but struggled to move the Cougars offense in the second half.
Rolovich called the offense “pretty anemic.”
Meanwhile, the Utes (2-2, 1-0) shook off their fumbles and made all the big plays in the fourth quarter. Before the Utah offense got moving, the defense kept the Utes in the game with eight sacks and three interceptions.