We're going to have to stay defensive-sound and do our job
SALT LAKE CITY — A week after facing one of the Pac-12's most prolific passers in Arizona's Nick Foles, the Utah Utes turn their attention to more of a dual threat in UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince.
Besides passing for 288 yards over his past two starts, the junior has rushed for 224. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry in leading the Bruins past California and Arizona State.
"We're going to have to stay defensive-sound and do our job," Utah linebacker Chaz Walker said while noting that Prince is a good running quarterback with a great arm.
Prince's ability to adapt has defined his career with the Bruins. He's battled a series of injuries while being the on-again, off-again starter. He made 11 starts as a redshirt freshman, five as a sophomore and five, thus far, this season. The latter includes some turbulent times and a comeback.
"I'm thrilled with Kevin. He's a wonderful human being. Everyone would love their daughter to marry him. He's that kind of guy," said UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel. "But he went through a patch where he was on and off again, and his confidence wavered."
Prince wound up losing his starting job to junior Richard Brehaut. Neuheisel had a message for Prince at the time.
"I told him that you can feel sorry for yourself, and if you do, you won't be ready next time your time comes. He flat took it to heart and was ready," Neuheisel said. "He came off the bench against Washington State (Oct. 8), and he wasn't perfect, but he was valiant. He was valiant again last week, and (last Saturday) he was our guy. We're going to keep correcting things, but as a leader, he's getting closer to being our kind of guy."
Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow knows a thing or two about Prince. He coached him for three years at UCLA.
"Obviously he's playing good," Chow said. "He's a nice young guy, works hard, does his thing."
For the season, Prince has completed 51-of-93 passes for 831 yards and rushed for 296 more.
"He pulls the ball out a lot. He sometimes gets around those D-ends," said Utah defensive lineman Dave Kruger. "As long as we step shuffle and do what we're taught, we should be able to handle him."
The Bruins, however, have several formidable players on offense. Running backs Johnathan Franklin (606 yards) and Derrick Coleman (532 yards) headline the backfield, while wide receiver Nelson Rosario (765 yards) is a talented target for Prince.
UCLA is also solid up front.
"Their offensive line is pretty good. They're going to be a challenge to our defensive line," Kruger said. "But I think if we just come prepared and fire off the ball we should be good. Overall, they're a good team."
Junior linebacker Pat Larimore tops the defense with 57 tackles and redshirt freshman safety Tevin McDonald has a team-high three interceptions.
At 5-4 overall and 4-2 in Pac-12 play, UCLA is in the driver's seat as far as the South Division title is concerned. The Bruins hold the tiebreaker over ASU and USC is ineligible because of NCAA sanctions.
"They're coming off a nice win against Arizona State. They're starting to play well and gaining confidence," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "So it will be a good test for our football team when the Bruins come to town on Saturday."
UCLA (5-4, 4-2)
at Utah (5-4, 2-4)
Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
TV: KJZZ Radio: 700AM