We hope to build on it. It was very good game offensively and we need to build on it next week. —Utah coach Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — Five straight possessions got Utah’s offense rolling in Friday's 48-17 win over UCLA at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Utes, who snapped a four-game skid with the win, reeled off three touchdowns and two field goals during a decisive span that stretched over the second, third and fourth quarters.
The breakthrough broke open a close game and accentuated a strong showing overall with 506 yards of total offense, 24 first downs, 7 of 14 success on third downs, and 5 for 5 production (including four touchdowns) in the red zone.
“It was more of a rhythm tonight as more of the scheme sinks in. It is only the first year and we made some wholesale changes in terms of route running and terminology,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said after the game. “We hope to build on it. It was very good game offensively and we need to build on it next week.”
The Utes (5-4, 2-4) likely need to do so. They host a Washington State team that’s good on both sides of the ball this Saturday (3:30 p.m., P12N). The Cougars (8-2, 5-2) are second in the Pac-12 in total defense (308.6 ypg) and third in total offense (471.6 ypg). Quarterback Luke Falk, a Logan High graduate, has thrown a conference-high 23 touchdown passes.
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley had his share of the latter against UCLA. The sophomore had four scoring strikes, connecting on two touchdown throws to Troy McCormick and one each to Darren Carrington II and Cody Ippolito.
“Tyler was back to his old self tonight,” Whittingham said.
Besides passing for 234 yards, Huntley also ran for 93. He had no turnovers.
The turning point, Huntley noted, came at the end of the first half.
“We started realizing we could win the game and we took advantage of their defense,” he said.
The Utes opened the third quarter with a 75-yard touchdown throw from Huntley to a wide-open McCormick. From there, they were off to the races. Utah outscored UCLA 31-7 in the second half.
By game’s end, the offense had flexed its muscle both in the air and on the ground. Running back Zack Moss finished with 153 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
“It opens up a lot of things for us,” he said. “We could complete a lot of deep passes. Their defense was off balance all game, so that helped us.”
Utah’s defense, meanwhile, got downright stingy down the stretch. UCLA was held to 19 yards of total offense in the third quarter and just 70 in the second half. The Bruins, who played without star quarterback Josh Rosen (concussion), struggled mightily as the game progressed. They finished with 249 yards of offense and 12 first downs. The Utes denied them on third down nine times.
Linebacker Sunia Tauteoli made a career-high 12 tackles and contributed to six stops behind the line of scrimmage. Safety Chase Hansen did so as well, finishing with the team’s lone sack.
Special teams was also an area of strength for the Utes. Boobie Hobbs recovered a fumble on a UCLA punt return, while kicker Matt Gay made field goals from 25 and 50 yards out. Mitch Wishnowsky was also solid, averaging 46.5 yards on four punts. The Bruins returned two of them, netting minus-11 yards.
Things worked in all three phases as Utah secured its first victory since prevailing at Arizona on Sept. 22.
“I am very proud of the coaching staff,” Whittingham said. “It was a great plan they put together.”