PASADENA, CA- Trailing by four after the first quarter, Utah outscored UCLA 38-3 throughout the final three to put a stranglehold on their Pac-12 South Division lead. Utah outgained UCLA 470-291 and dominated the second half to win 41-10, behind yards and three touchdowns from junior running back Zack Moss.
“I just think we have to tackle better,” UCLA head coach Chip Kelly said. Bruins’ running back Joshua Kelley added, “I just felt like we shot ourselves in the foot with penalties. They were great tonight.”
Junior Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley completed 13 of his 21 passes for 138 yards. Freshman tight end Cole Fotheringham caught one touchdown pass, and sophomore wide receiver Britain Covey led the Utes with five catches for 47 yards.
In-place of injured true freshman starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Michigan graduate transfer Wilton Speight struggled for UCLA. Speight threw two interceptions and collected 164 passing yards. “Obviously, I missed a few throws tonight,” said Speight. He added, “we weren’t firing on all cylinders tonight.”
Kelley ran 16 times for 90 yards and one touchdown. “I need to do a better job of breaking tackles,” said Kelley. Theo Howard finished with six receptions for 51 yards and snagged the 100th catch of his UCLA career.
A 13-play, 78-yard scoring drive capped off by sophomore wide receiver Covey’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Fotheringham put Utah in-front, 10-7, just six minutes into the second quarter. Moss scored his first touchdown of the evening from one-yard out, and the Utes increased their lead to 10 with inside five minutes remaining in the first half.
UCLA drove inside Utah territory to the 30 and ran the clock down to two seconds, before calling a timeout. JJ Molson lined up for a 47-yard field goal, but the Bruins were called for their fifth penalty of the first half. Molson missed short from 52 yards out and Utah kept their 17-7 lead, heading into halftime.
Both teams traded three-and-outs on their first two possessions. Momentum swung early in Utah’s favor, when Adarius Pickett muffed a 41-yard punt return and Connor Haller scooped the ball up for the Utes. The Bruins held Utah to a second straight three-and-out from inside the five yard-line, but surrendered a 22-yard Matt Gay field goal with 9:48 left in the first quarter.
UCLA responded in style with a 75-yard drive. Speight led the Bruins from their own 25 into Utah territory, but failed to score inside the redzone. Stefan Flintoft lined up for what appeared to be a chip shot field goal attempt, until Kelley surprised the Utah defense. A fake field goal run gave Kelley a wide open running lane, straight to the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown to give UCLA a 7-3 lead.
Moss escaped for a 60-yard skamper down the left sideline, two plays into Utah’s next possession. Forced into 2nd and 15 after an offensive holding penalty, Huntley fired to the right corner of the endzone. UCLA sophomore defensive back Quentin Lake stretched his arms out, dove and snatched an interception. The Bruins failed to capitalize on the turnover, and punted to set Utah up at their own 22 yard-line as the first quarter concluded.
Utah started the second half right where they left off on offense, driving 75 yards in nine plays. Covey caught back-to-back passes for a combined 19 yards to start the possession. Moss finished off the drive with his second straight 1-yard touchdown, putting Utah up 24-7 just over three minutes into the third quarter.
Speight and the UCLA offense continued to falter. Rolling outside the pocket, Speight threw an interception to senior linebacker Cody Barton who returned it seven yards. Utah took over at the 32 yard-line and scored four plays later, off an Armand Shyne two-yard wildcat formation touchdown run.
Wilson sparked some offensive momentum for UCLA with a 27-yard catch and run. Speight took off from the pocket one play later, slid for an 11-yard gain and got his helmet rocked by Utah strong safety Marquise Blair. The play was reviewed and officials determined Blair targeted Speight.
The strong safety faced ejected as a result, and UCLA advanced to the Utah 22 yard-line. With strong field position, UCLA still couldn’t punch the ball past the pylone. A Speight 3rd and 7 pass fell to the ground, leaving the Bruins without a red zone touchdown. Molson nailed a 27-yard field goal, but Utah still led 31-10.
Another Utah offensive drive equated to more touchdowns for Moss. The junior running back scored his third touchdown of the game, this time from five yards out after a nine-play, 75-yard drive.
Utah, the 23rd-ranked team in the national AP Poll, become bowl eligible for the 13th time under head coach Kyle Whittingham, who has the best bowl victory percentage in NCAA history (92 percent) at 11-1.
Blake Atwell is a multimedia journalist and sophomore at Santa Monica College.