SEATTLE (AP) — With all the other big-name quarterbacks in the Pac-12, it's been easy — albeit unfair — for Utah's Tyler Huntley to be overlooked.
That should end after his latest performance.
Huntley continued to make his case as the offensive player of the year in the Pac-12, leading the Utes from behind in their 33-28 win over Washington on Saturday. The victory helped Utah jump one spot in The AP Top 25 to No. 8, its highest ranking since reaching No. 3 in the middle of the 2015 season.
And considering the circumstances, it may be remembered as one of the best games in Huntley's career.
"He's one of the elite quarterbacks in the country and I stand by that," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "And when our guys are making great catches and plays for him, it all looks great. And on top of that, he's still not even 100 percent. He's a great quarterback for us."
Maybe because he missed the final five games of last season due to injury, Huntley was lumped in the second tier among Pac-12 quarterbacks before the season began. Oregon's Justin Herbert was at the top, with Washington's Jacob Eason, Stanford's K.J. Costello, USC's J.T Daniels and Arizona's Khalil Tate following in some order.
Huntley wasn't an afterthought, but he wasn't the first QB on anyone's mind. And he carried a ton of pressure entering the year, with most believing Huntley needed to improve for Utah to reach its potential.
It's clear he has exceeded those expectations, doing so while playing through a knee injury that has limited his mobility.
Huntley posted a 192.3 passer rating against Washington, completing 19 of 24 passes for 284 yards, and his third time this season topping a rating of 190. Huntley had a rating of 255.7 against FCS Idaho State and 243.2 in a blowout win over Oregon State. That's what made Huntley's performance against Washington more impressive. It was a quality opponent and in a game the Utes trailed until early in the fourth quarter, when Huntley was at his best.
Huntley was 5 of 6 passing for 96 yards in the fourth quarter. Three of his five completions were massive third-down conversions. He converted a third-and-12, hitting Jaylen Dixon for a 41-yard completion on a drive that was capped with Huntley's 1-yard TD run. He added a pair of key third-down conversions on Utah's final scoring drive, hitting Solomon Enis for 14 yards and Samson Nacua for 28 yards. Zack Moss finished the 84-yard drive with a 2-yard TD run with 4:52 left and capped a 30-7 scoring blitz from the Utes.
Huntley now ranks fifth nationally in passer rating (182.5) and completion percentage (73.8). While he has only 11 TD passes, he's also thrown just one interception in 191 pass attempts.
"We all talked among each other that we need to get on our stuff. That's what we did. That's all it took," Huntley said.
The open weekend could not be coming at a better time for Utah. They have injuries to deal with, primarily getting Huntley healthy for the final stretch of the regular season. The Utes will be favored in their final three games — UCLA, at Arizona and Colorado — and got the help they needed to control their route to the conference championship game when No. 7 Oregon beat Southern California on Saturday night.
"It comes at a great time. We have a bye this week and then three down the stretch and I don't think this could have been timed any better," Whittingham said.