Washington linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala appeared to have turned his first career interception into a pick-six during a crucial play in Saturday’s home game against Utah.
But there was a problem. He forgot the ball.
With Washington leading 33-28 late in the third quarter, Utah was driving and trying to take the lead when Tuputala intercepted a deflected pass from Utes quarterback Bryson Barnes. Tuputala caught Barnes’ pass on the move and had a clear path to the end zone. Once he got past Barnes, it looked like Tuputala would give the Huskies a two-point lead with a defensive touchdown.
Instead, he inexplicably dropped the ball before crossing the goal line.
Tuputala was almost two meters from the goal line when he dropped the ball behind him as he began to celebrate.
Utah offensive lineman Michael Mokofisi was scrambling behind the play and had the presence of mind to pounce on the loose ball. After a quick review, the fumble was confirmed and the Utes offense regained possession at their own one-yard line.
Fortunately for Tuputala, his teammates came to pick him up. On the next play, Washington’s Tuli Letuligasenoa and Carson Bruener sneaked into the backfield and brought down Utah’s Ja’Quinden Jackson for a safety.
The Huskies would hold on to win by that margin, 35-28.
Tuputala is not the first player to make this mistake. DeSean Jackson did it in 2008 as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. There have been a few in college football as well. One involved Utah.
During Utah’s home game against Oregon in 2014, Kaelin Clay dropped the ball before reaching the end zone. The play was never called and an Oregon defender picked up the ball on alert and returned it more than 100 yards for a touchdown.
Tuputala is lucky that his blunder did not have serious consequences for his team.