SALT LAKE CITY — Ever since joining the Pac-12, the Utah football team has struggled with Arizona as much as any other opponent.
Not only has Arizona beaten the Utes four of seven times before this season, but every year, the Wildcats piled up yardage, averaging 473 yards per game and outgaining the Utes in total offense in all seven games.
That certainly wasn’t the case Friday night as the Ute offense amassed just under 500 yards while holding the Wildcats to just 318 yards, much of it coming late, after the game had long been decided. The Utes came into the game leading the Pac-12 and ranking third in the nation in rush defense at 75.4 yards per game and they held Arizona to just 72 yards.
From the start, the Utes dominated, piling up 165 yards in the first quarter to just 11 for the Wildcats. By halftime the yardage margin was 295 to 111 as the Utes took a 28-0 lead into halftime. After three quarters Utah had 435 total yards to 194 for Arizona as the Utes increased their lead to 35-3.
The Ute defensive line which rotated Bradlee Anae, Maxs Tupai, Hauati Pututau. Leki Fotu, John Penisini and Pita Tonga all night, dominated the line of scrimmage, while linebackers Chase Hansen and Cody Barton both played well, each coming up with eight tackles in the first half alone.
"Our rush defense has been good all year long," said coach Kyle Whittingham. "That speaks to the front with our down linemen -- we've got eight of them that roll through there. They're all very good players and the backers, Cody and Chase, are just tough, hard-nosed kids that fit the run real well. It's a product of those guys being tough and doing what they're coached to do."
Tupai, a sophomore from Murray High School, who had to play right end with Mika Tafua out, and had an expecially good game, leading the Utes with nine tackles, along with Hansen.
"For the second week in a row he did some good things," said Whittingham. "It's such a plus for us for him to step up for us and give us another guy we can win with on the edge because if we were thin anywhere it was at defensive end
Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate, who had rushed for 109 yards this year after gaining 1411 last year in just eight games, hobbled off the field in the first half with an undisclosed injury and didn’t return after rushing for three yards and completing 1 of 4 passes for three yards. He was initially replaced by freshman Jamarye Joiner and later by Rhett Rodriguez, the son of former UA coach Rich Rodriguez.
COMMISH IN TOWN: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was on hand for Friday’s game and spoke to the media for several minutes before the game.
Scott praised new Ute athletic director Mark Harlan and talked about the Pac-12 gymnastics meet coming to the Maverick Center next year. He also reiterated the league’s commitment to a nine-game football schedule, even while some conferences like the SEC stick to an eight-game slate.
Most of the questions concerned the Yahoo report that came out two days ago about someone in the Pac-12 office interfering with the replay booth’s call in the USC-Washington State game in late September. Scott took responsibility for the gaffe and said the league has already taken action to correct the problem and vowed to make sure it won’t happen again.
“I wanted to make sure we immediately addressed the issues that were creating a perceived conflict of interest and ambiguity,” he said.
UTES NOTES: Senior center Lo Falemaka, one of the Ute captains, missed his second straight game with a leg injury and was replaced by sophomore Orlando Umana. Other offensive line starters were Jackson Barton, Nick Ford, Jordan Agasiva and Darrin Paulo . . . Whittingham says he expects Falemaka to be ready to play next week against USC . . . The coach also said he'll give his players the entire weekend off, rather than practice an extra day before next week's game . . . The Utes wore all red uniforms with white helmets, while Arizona countered with all white uniforms with shiny red helmets . . . Arizona had won four of seven meetings against Utes since Utah joined Pac-12 in 2011 . . . Utah now leads the all-time series with Arizona 23-19-2 . . . This was Utah's biggest margin of victory over Arizona since a 54-6 win in 1959 when Larry Wilson was the star player . . . Attendance was 45,862 . .. This marked Kyle Whittingham’s 200th win since joining the Ute staff in 1994 . . . A night after beating Sacramento, Jazz players Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Raul Neto and Georges Niang were on the sidelines at the game. . . Perhaps because it was it was one of the only Friday night college games, but there was a larger than usual number of scouts at the game with representatives from the Giants, Buccaneers, Panthers, Bills, Browns, Ravens, Eagles, Texans, Titans, Lions and Ravens on hand.