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Washington linebacker drops ball before goal line on likely touchdown in head-scratching play


The No. 5 Washington Huskies remained undefeated on Saturday with a 35-28 win over No. 13 Utah. But it could’ve been a disaster if the team from the Pacific Northwest didn’t recover after a head-scratching play.

Huskies linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala picked off Utes quarterback Bryson Barnes in the third quarter – a crucial play with Washington already leading 33-28. Tuputala thought he had returned the interception 76 yards for a touchdown and was seen celebrating as he made his way into the end zone.

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Alphonzo Tuputala runs

Washington’s Alphonzo Tuputala races down the sidelines after intercepting a pass, only to fumble the ball at the 1-yard line during the Utah Utes game on Nov. 11, 2023, at Husky Stadium in Seattle. (Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

However, replay showed that Tuputala dropped the ball before he crossed the goal line. Utah’s Michael Mokofisi recovered the ball at the 1-yard line. The move cost Washington six points.

The linebacker was criticized on social media but his teammates attempted to pick him up on the sideline recognizing that he made a tough mistake.

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“It’s a great lesson to learn from,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said after the game. “Fortunately, we win the football game so we can learn from that.”

The linebacker finished with four tackles on the day.

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Alphonzo Tuputala fumbles

Utah offensive lineman Michael Mokofisi recovers a fumble after Washington linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala dropped the football while celebrating his interception before reaching the end zone, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Utah got the ball on their own 1-yard line. On the next play, Washington defenders tackled Ja’Quinden Jackson in the end zone for a safety. It bumped the score up to 35-28.

Washington remained undefeated with the win at 10-0. Utah fell to 7-3 with the loss. It’s the second straight season Washington has put together double-digit wins.

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Alphonzo Tuputala breaks out

Washington linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala runs an interception back while pursued by Utah offensive lineman Sataoa Laumea,  Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

“It’s all the work we’ve put in. We’re right where we saw ourselves at. We just have to continue to keep working,” Heisman Trophy favorite Michael Penix Jr. said. “We’ve got two more in the regular season to try and finish off with two more wins, go 12-0, and it’s right there in front of us.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.





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