Resiliency is the brand that Utah football has built for itself for this 2021 season. After a disappointing loss on the road against Oregon State a week ago, Utah bounced back on another emotional night against UCLA for a big win. On the night that Utah retired the number 22 for Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe, they doubled that number for their 44 points. It all started with the offense taking the ball out of the games and driving the ball down Bruins’ throats to take a quick 7-0 lead.
UCLA was down their starting QB, DTR, and a freshman ran the show with their typically powerful running game. UCLA was able to move the ball behind a veteran offensive line and running game. They moved the ball on consecutive drives for scores, one field goal, and one touchdown, while Utah scored their first four times, having the ball to take the 28-10 lead going into the half.
On offense, the Utes moved the ball almost at will on the ground with 290 rushing yards, with 164 from Tavion Thomas, 63 from Cam Rising, and 61 from TJ Pledger. Utah’s offensive line was dominating the line of scrimmage and pushed around the league-leading rush defense. Rising was good throwing the ball again on the night with 179 yards and helped keep the chains moving and ahead of the chains on 1st and 2nd down.
Utah controlled this game from the kick, and while UCLA would rally and close the gap at times, the Utes would respond themselves and stretch the lead again. The one-two punch of the defense with a safety followed by another Thomas touchdown put the game out of reach for good halfway through the 4th quarter.
The defense still has some work to do, as they let UCLA off the hook with seven 4th down conversations in nine attempts. The defense is super young, and they need to keep improving to get the Utes where they want to go. They did hold UCLA to 4-of-16 on 3rd down, so that’s good, but they need to snuff out drives completely, and they had a hard time doing that tonight.
The Utes own the tiebreaker against the teams that are likely to be their biggest competition in the Pac-12 South over ASU, UCLA, and USC. With four weeks to go, Utah is in a good spot, but they need to take care of business because this league is insane. It all starts with the trip to Stanford next Friday.