"We're starting to figure things out," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We've gotten better each of the last four weeks."
Utah quarterback Travis Wilson was 17-for-21 for 171 yards and connected with 14 different receivers.
"We were definitely ready to play today," Wilson said.
Washington State coach Mike Leach ripped his team following the loss, saying Utah could have beaten the Cougars by 100 if the Utes had wanted to do so.
"I can't fathom, on any level, how you work at anything and then just come out and not try," he said. "It doesn't matter what physical condition a person is in, how old, how young, anybody is capable of a great effort. So anybody's capable of it. The fact of the matter, today, we refused to give it."
Whittingham's mark in 100 games
Whittingham, who suffered the longest losing streak of his career this season when the Utes lost four in a row, is 70-30 as the Utes' head coach.
He is 6-9 against Pac-12 teams and 7-1 in bowl games, with the lone loss being to Boise State in the 2010 Las Vegas Bowl.
Offensive lineman Jeremiah Tofaeono didn't play due to a foot injury. Also missing the game were running back Kelvin York and corner Ryan Lacy. The Utes didn't report any injuries Saturday.
Whittingham said the Utes have had 10 starters injured this season.
"Our offensive line is running on fumes," he said.
Former Ute Eric Weddle watched the game from the sidelines. ... With two punts over 50 yards, Sean Sellwood tied the Utah career record of 50-plus-yard punts with 50. ... Backup quarterbacks Jon Hays and Adam Schulz both played Saturday.