No. 12 Utah used a late touchdown from quarterback Nate Johnson to shock Baylor 20-13 and survive a wild game in Waco, Texas. The Utes did not lead until 17 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter but move to 2-0 with wins over the Bears and Florida without starting quarterback Cameron Rising and star tight end Brant Kuithe.
Down 13-6 in the fourth quarter, Utah opted to bench quarterback Bryson Barnes and give Johnson his first full drive of the game. The redshirt freshman didn’t disappoint and led a 14-play, 88-yard scoring effort to tie the game. He completed 4 of 5 passes for 57 yards and ran for 13 yards to set up a 7-yard rushing touchdown.
With Baylor’s starting quarterback Blake Shapen sidelined with an MCL injury, backup Sawyer Robertson received a 2-minute drill opportunity to win the game. On the third play of the series, Robertson threw an interception to Utah safety Cole Bishop, giving the Utes the ball in field goal range. Utah ran down most of the clock before Baylor attempted to give up a free touchdown, but running back Jaylon Glover smartly ran off nearly 10 seconds before Baylor shoved him into the end zone.
With only moments remaining on the next possession, Robertson found receiver Hal Presley for a miraculous 47-yard completion that set up one more throw towards the end zone. Robertson targeted Presley again, but Utah’s cornerback played physically against Presley to prevent another play as the clock struck zero.
The battle between future Big 12 conference mates was an ugly affair for most of the day, especially at the quarterback position. Barnes and Robertson combined to complete just 18 of 47 passes with three interceptions between them. However, Johnson’s playmaking down the stretch — next to a 129-yard rushing performance from running back Ja’Quinden Jackson — clinched the game.
Utah can now sit comfortably at 2-0 with wins over a pair of power conference opponents. The Utes have a tune-up game against Weber State from the Football Championship Subdivision before opening Pac-12 play against UCLA on Sept. 23. Rising and Kuithe are expected back in the lineup by the end of September, but surviving a pair of ugly games means the Utes are still in the thick of the College Football Playoff discussion for the third year in a row. Additionally, the emergence of Johnson should give Utah’s coaching staff optimism that offense is on the table, even with the two All-Pac-12 players out of the lineup.
For Baylor, the loss is another ugly one for coach Dave Aranda in his fourth season. The Bears have not started 0-2 since Matt Rhule’s debut effort in 2017. Baylor plays Long Island in one week, but then opens Big 12 play against No. 11 Texas in the final matchup of the pairing as conference mates.