SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Earlier this season Washington State coach Mike Leach called some of his seniors empty corpses.
After losing 49-6 to Utah on Saturday, he said, “That could have been a zombie convention out there.”
Reggie Dunn returned a kickoff 100 yards for the third time in two weeks and John White rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns for Utah.
“Our effort today was pitiful,” Leach said. “We had bad effort on all sides of the ball for four quarters.”
The loss was the sixth straight for Washington State (2-7, 0-6 Pac-12), assuring Leach of his first losing season.
Leach was particularly irked that his offensive line couldn’t handle the pressure when Utah rushed just two defenders.
“Our five couldn’t whip their two, which means if five of our guys went in an alley and got in a fight with two of theirs, we would have gotten massacred,” Leach said. “That’s just ridiculously inexcusable. It was one of the most heartless efforts up front I’ve seen; and our defensive line wasn’t any better.”
Leach sent his entire starting offensive and defensive lines to the postgame press conference to face the media.
Senior Travis Long was asked about losing bowl-game eligibility with the loss. “I’m not happy and that’s all I’m going to say about that,” he said and then left the room in tears.
Utah (4-5, 2-4) has won two straight.
“Utah’s team deserves a lot of credit,” Leach said. “They’re not that good; we’re not that bad. Despite what the score was, they could have beat us by 100 today.
“If you have to beg an 18-to-22-year-old kid to give good effort then you’ve got the wrong kids on your team,” added Leach, who said the coaches were going to sit down and re-evaluate every aspect of the program.
White also caught an 18-yard TD pass as Utah scored on five first-half possessions and led 31-0 at halftime.
Dunn opened the second half with his school-record fourth career 100-yard return. He had an NCAA-record two 100-yard kickoff returns last week.
Utah freshman Travis Wilson completed 17 of 21 passes for 171 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.
Washington State’s Jeff Tuel was 23 of 45 for 232 yards. He was intercepted, fumbled and sacked six times, but threw a 5-yard TD pass to Kristoff Williams on the game’s final play to avoid the shutout.
The Utes are 11-0 when White rushes for 100 yards. He had 96 by halftime, and carried the ball just three times in the second half before taking a seat in the blowout victory.
White’s 47-yard run around right end gave Utah a 7-0 lead with 9:04 left in the first quarter. He broke two tackles on the play, including one at the 30-yard line that gave him a clear path down the sideline.
Utah took a 14-0 lead on Wilson’s 5-yard TD pass to Max Moala with 3:46 left in the first. The big play in the drive was Wilson’s 24-yard pass across the middle to Anthony Denham, who held on despite a high hit by Casey Locker that knocked Denham’s helmet off and drew a 15-yard personal-foul penalty.
White’s 2-yard touchdown run pushed Utah’s lead to 21-0 with 12:07 left in the half. Four minutes later, Utah led 24-0 after Reggie Topps’ interception set up Coleman Petersen’s 20-yard field goal — his first in six games. Wilson’s 18-yard TD pass to White gave Utah a 31-0 lead at the break.
At halftime, Utah held a 285-116 edge in total yards, 141-15 edge in rushing yards and 7-minute edge in time of possession.
Nothing went right for the Cougars and Tuel, who set a school passing mark with 43 completions last week as Washington State took it down to the wire against nationally ranked Stanford.
“If we are taking any satisfaction out of last week, we are out of our mind,” Leach said. “Not one play last week counts for this week.”
Tuel completed three of his first five passes for 41 yards Saturday, but was just 1 of 9 for 6 yards the rest of the quarter.
Washington State crossed midfield three times in the first half, with one possession ending on a missed 49-yard field goal by Andrew Furney and two ending on failed fourth-down plays. Tuel threw behind Marquess Wilson on fourth-and-12 from the Utah 37. And on fourth-and-1 from the Utes’ 34, Trevor Reilly batted down his pass at the line.
Leach pulled Tuel in the third quarter and inserted Connor Halliday, but Tuel finished the game, engineering the late TD drive.
The Utes dominated on defense despite missing top cornerback Ryan Lacy, who did not dress because of an undisclosed injury.
The Cougars started 0 for 9 on third-down conversions and 0 for 2 on fourth down.
Utah held a 453-255 advantage in total yards, limiting the nation’s 120th-ranked rushing attack to minus-4 yards.
Washington State’s Marquess Wilson entered the game with 184 career receptions and needed 12 to set the school record of 195. He finished with five catches for 73 yards.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.