It feels good. We’ve been talking about it for a long time. We wanted to get this team back on track and do what we do best and win some games. —Utah RB Zack Moss
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s annual blackout game wasn’t exactly a lights-out affair in the beginning. In fact, it lacked some serious star power with highly-touted UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen not making the trip because of a concussion.
However, things eventually brightened — and in a big, big way — for most folks at Rice-Eccles Stadium as the Utes snapped a four-game losing skid with a 48-17 victory over the Bruins.
“It feels good. We’ve been talking about it for a long time,” said Utah running back Zack Moss. “We wanted to get this team back on track and do what we do best and win some games.”
Tyler Huntley completed 15 of 22 passes for 234 yards and four touchdowns and
Moss shook off a slow start to finish with a career-high 153 yards rushing and two scores as Utah’s much-maligned offense got going.
“We had the right mentality tonight,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “We played with a lot of passion.”
Troy McCormick added a pair of touchdown receptions, while Darren Carrington II and Cody Ippolito each had one as the Utes netted 506 yards of total offense, 24 first downs and were 5 for 5 in the red zone (four touchdowns) in capturing their first victory at home over UCLA since 2011.
“I’m just proud of our guys after four tough weeks. It was good to get back on track,” Whittingham said. “Hopefully now we can build on this. It was great to win and break the streak that we had going.”
The game opened with both teams punting the ball away twice. Utah’s second kick, though, proved to be quite profitable for the Utes. Caleb Repp jarred the ball away from UCLA’s Mossi Johnson on the return and Boobie Hobbs recovered it on the 16-yard line.
Although it required a conversion on third-and-12 along the way, Utah wound up scoring a touchdown on a 3-yard run by Moss with 2:57 remaining in the first quarter. Matt Gay added the PAT to give the Utes a 7-0 advantage. They led despite having just 39 yards of total offense and four yards on three carries by Moss. On the bright side, Huntley was 4-for-4 passing for 24 yards.
UCLA responded to the score with a 37-yard field goal by JJ Molson early in the second quarter.
Leading 7-3, the Utes embarked on a sustained drive later in the half. They marched downfield on 10 plays, capping things off with a 25-yard scoring strike from Huntley to Carrington II and another extra point from Gay.
UCLA needed less than two minutes to answer with a touchdown of its own, a 24-yard throw from Devon Modster to Darren Andrews and, along with a PAT from Molson, that made it 14-10 with 4:24 left in the quarter.
Before the half was complete, Utah added a 25-yard field goal by Gay to take a 17-10 lead into the break.
It didn’t take long for the margin to swell as the Utes came out swinging and making that score in the third quarter.
Utah’s lead grew to 38-10 in a span of 7:47 to open the second half. The Utes scored on three straight possessions and five straight overall including the point production before halftime to put the game out of reach.
The scores began on the first play of the third quarter when Huntley teamed with Troy McCormick on a 75-yard touchdown pass. The Utes followed that with a 20-yard scoring run by Moss and a 13-yard TD toss from Huntley to McCormick. Gay contributed PATs to each of them.
For good measure, the nation’s leader in field goals made a 50-yard kick with 14:02 remaining to inflate the rout.
The outburst was more than enough for Utah to prevail for the first time since a 30-24 win at Arizona on Sept. 22. The Utes improved to 5-4 overall and 2-4 in Pac-12 play. They host Washington State on Saturday, Nov. 11.
Then come games at Washington on Nov. 18 and at home against Colorado on Nov. 25. Utah needs one more win to become bowl eligible for the fourth straight year.
UCLA, meanwhile, fell to 4-5 and 2-4. The Bruins struggled without Rosen. The junior’s status for the game was uncertain after he left last week’s 44-23 loss at Washington early with an undisclosed injury.
Modster, a redshirt freshman, made his first career start in place of Rosen. He had 103 yards passing before being replaced by fellow freshman Matt Lynch. With 9:59 to go, Lynch threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Eldridge Massington.
The Utes, though, fired back 6 1/2 minutes later with a 2-yard TD throw from Huntley to Cody Ippolito. Gay’s sixth and final extra point kick capped all scoring in the game.
Utah’s defense posted its best performance in several weeks. The Utes held the Bruins to only 249 yards and 12 first downs. Linebacker Sunia Tauteoli finished with 12 tackles.