CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Quarterback Lucas Johnson caught a 2-point conversion pass from Jesse Matthews in triple overtime, and San Diego State blew a 14-point lead in the final minutes of regulation before hanging on for a wild 33-31 victory over Utah on Saturday night.
After Johnson scored on a Philly Special, the Aztecs (3-0) celebrated wildly after officials reversed their call of a 2-point conversion catch by Utah’s Connor O’Toole, ruling the ball hit the turf.
Greg Bell rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns and Jordan Byrd returned a kickoff 100 yards for a TD, but the Aztecs nearly gave away their second straight win over a Pac-12 opponent.
Back-up quarterback Cameron Rising led the Utes’ improbable comeback, passing for 153 yards and three touchdowns while engineering three strong drives after replacing ineffective Charlie Brewer late in the third quarter.
Britain Covey caught a short TD pass from Rising with 4:17 left, but Jadon Redding missed Utah’s extra point. Rising got the ball back with 2:36 left and led a 74-yard drive, hitting Theo Howard with a 4-yard TD pass and finding Solomon Enis for the 2-point conversion with 16 seconds left.
Johnson hit Jay Rudolph with a 2-yard TD pass on San Diego State’s possession in the first overtime, but Rising found Jaylen Dixon for a 25-yard TD on Utah’s first OT snap.
Redding missed a 37-yard field goal attempt in the second OT, but Matt Araiza then missed a 36-yard attempt for the Aztecs, sending the game to 2-point conversions.
Bell produced his third consecutive 100-yard game this season and the Nebraska transfer’s seventh in 10 games since joining the Aztecs, who followed up their blowout of rebuilding Arizona with this nail-biting victory over the Utes. San Diego State improved to 7-2 against the Pac-12 in the past six seasons.
Bell made a pair of 7-yard touchdown runs 42 seconds apart in the third quarter separated by Tayler Hawkins’ interception.
Johnson passed for just 44 yards, but made a key 54-yard run on a keeper in his second career start.
Covey returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter for Utah, which is off to a 1-2 start in consecutive seasons for the first time in coach Kyle Whittingham’s 17-year tenure.
Covey put the Utes ahead early with that sprint down the sideline for the third punt return TD in a collegiate career that began in 2015, when he got his first.
Byrd scored his second career kick return TD midway through the second quarter.
Utah starting DT Viane Moala left the field prone on a cart with 8:43 to play.
Utah: Rising’s excellent play was a boon for a struggling offense, but this could be an ugly season for a perennial winning program if the offensive line doesn’t improve soon. Brewer and his blockers frequently looked overmatched against another solid defensive line, and better groups likely await in the Pac-12.
San Diego State: Utah was a significant step up in competition, and the Aztecs survived. They could get Top 25 consideration next month with a few more wins.
Utah: Reeling Washington State (1-2) visits Rice-Eccles Stadium for the Utes’ Pac-12 opener next Saturday, Sept. 25.
San Diego State: Back to Carson next Saturday, Sept. 25, to host FCS opponent Towson (1-2), which will have a 5,400-mile round trip from Maryland to Los Angeles.
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