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Opponent Preview: UCLA Offense

UCLA V Utah Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

If there’s one major flaw in Utah’s defense this season, it’s been in stopping the run. High-powered backs including San Diego State’s Greg Bell and Oregon State’s BJ Baylor were able to navigate their way between tackles with relative ease, gaining monster yardage as the matchup progressed. The Utes will have another efficient run-heavy offense to try to contain this Saturday night when UCLA takes the field at Rice-Eccles.

Ranking 28th nationally in rush offense, both San Diego State and Oregon State are more efficient on the ground, but the differences are mostly marginal, especially considering the Bruin’s rushing attack is more of a three-headed monster, splitting reps between junior Zach Charbonnet (6’1”, 220 lbs), senior Brittain Brown (6’1”, 205 lbs) and senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (6’1”, 205 lbs). Charbonnet will likely lead the ground game as he has all season, accounting for 35% of all rushing attempts, averaging 5.9 yards per rush, while Brown’s 86 rushing attempts make up 24.2% of Bruin rush plays, averaging an even six yards per attempt. DTR, perhaps the most effective rushing quarterback in the league, has recorded 97 rushing attempts, gaining 364 yards on the season. Combined, the trio has managed 19 touchdowns from the ground, with DTR coming through with 14 more through the air and just three interceptions. Needless to say, this offense can and will put up points against the Utes.

Juniors Kyle Phillips (wide receiver, 5’11”, 191 lbs) and Greg Dulcich (tight end, 6’4”, 245 lbs) have become favorite targets for DTR, reeling in 44% of all catches for the Bruins, with ten other players making up the remaining 56%. When DTR does air it out, his receivers are finding their way past first down territory with ease, as all but three players who have recorded a catch in 2021 are averaging more than 10 yards per reception, which will make life difficult for Utah’s secondary.

Kyle Whittingham has been a bit more aggressive this season, particularly in 4th and short situations. Perhaps this is a symptom of a weaker than usual special teams unit, but that approach potentially cost Utah a win last week in Corvallis. Considering UCLA’s offense is even more prone for an explosive play than Oregon State’s playing things a little more conservatively might be Utah’s best option to keep pace. Taking easy points will be critical with every opportunity that presents itself if the Utes hope to get one game closer to clinching a tight South division race.