NCAA Football

Washington defender drops pick-six at one-yard line after celebrating early vs. Utah

Huskies linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala felt the adrenaline rush too early


SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – NOVEMBER 11: Michael Penix Jr. #9 of the Washington Huskies scores a touchdown against the Utah Utes during the first quarter at Husky Stadium on November 11, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Somewhere, Desean Jackson just shivered.

No. 5 Washington hosted No. 18 Utah on Saturday in a battle of two top Pac-12 teams, with the Huskies pulling out a gutsy 35-28 win.

The scoreline was just one yard away from being worse for the Utes, however.

Utah quarterback Bryson Barnes had a pass late in the third quarter picked off by Washington linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala, who had all green grass ahead. But he felt the adrenaline rush too early. Tuputala dropped the ball at the one-yard line in favor of celebrating early, a fumble Utah recovered.

Tuputala could've been bailed out by his teammates, but the closest ones ran by the ball to join the celebration until it was too late. Utah offensive lineman Michael Mokofisi scooped it up just in time.

It was a moment highly reminiscent of Jackson's goal-line fumble in 2008 when the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys faced off. Jackson bypassed Dallas' secondary to haul in a 61-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb, but he, too, dropped the ball at the one-yard line to celebrate early.

But Utah's fortune quickly evaporated. On the ensuing play, running back Ja'Quinden Jackson got swarmed in the end zone for a Washington safety.

Despite some close calls, the scoreline never changed in the fourth. Washington moved to 10-0 on the season, the program's second such start in its history.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who potentially could be a top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, posted 332 passing yards on 24 of 42 completions, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran in a touchdown but had five carries for negative 14 yards.

Washington will put its unbeaten streak on the line next time out versus another ranked Pac-12 team in Oregon State. The Beavers are currently No. 12 in the nation.

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