SEATTLE (AP) Gionni Paul returned a fumble 54 yards for a touchdown, set up another score with an interception and No. 13 Utah held off Washington 34-23 on Saturday night to remain in control of the Pac-12 South Division race.
Utah (8-1, 5-1, No. 12 CFP) leaned on big plays from its defense to overcome an inconsistent night offensively against the Huskies (4-5, 2-4). After going two weeks without forcing a turnover, the Utes forced three in the first half and made that stand up against Washington's second-half rally.
Paul jumped on Dwayne Washington's fumble midway through Utah's 24-point second quarter and went untouched to give the Utes a 21-6 lead. Quarterback Travis Wilson ran 3 yards for a touchdown with 3:27 left in the fourth quarter after the Utes had gone scoreless in the second half.
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Devontae Booker rushed for 150 yards to help Utah maintain a one-game lead on the chase group in the Pac-12 South.
Booker went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season and matched his season high with 34 carries. Wilson finished 12 of 25 passing for 155 yards and added 42 yards on the ground.
Utah was unable to put away Washington, committing two second-half turnovers that allowed the Huskies to rally and pull within 24-23 on Cameron Van Winkle's 49-yard field goal with 13:11 remaining. The field goal came after Washington had its second touchdown of the game called back due to penalty. Jaydon Mickens had a TD catch erased in the first quarter due to offensive pass interference on Brayden Lenius, and Myles Gaskin had a 23-yard score early in the fourth quarter called back on a holding penalty.
Gaskin finished with 93 yards rushing and one touchdown, while freshman quarterback Jake Browning was 19 of 35 for 220 yards and one score. Washington needs to win two of its final three games to become bowl eligible for the sixth straight season.
After being unable to force a turnover against either USC or Oregon State, the Utes got three in the first half and were gifted field position another time when Washington punter Korey Durkee dropped a snap in Huskies territory. After Utah took a 7-3 lead on Wilson's 4-yard TD run, Paul jumped Browning pass attempt two play into Washington's next possession and returned the interception to the Washington 8. Booker scored two plays later for a 14-3 lead and two Utah touchdowns in 90 seconds.
Later in the second quarter Browning hit Dwayne Washington in the flat, but the ball was jarred free by Jared Norris, scooped up by Paul and returned for a 54-yard touchdown and a 21-6 Utes lead.
Browning threw a 1-yard touchdown to tight end Drew Sample in the second quarter and Gaskin raced 10 yards for a score in the third quarter. Any hopes of a final Washington rally was dashed when Browning was sacked from behind by Kylie Fitts and fumbled with 2:52 left. Stevie Tu'ikolovatu recovered the fumble setting off the celebration on the Utah sideline.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org