It doesn’t take a lot to figure out how UCLA got summarily dismantled by Utah, 48-17, in Salt Lake City Friday night.
You can start with quarterback Josh Rosen not making the trip due to a concussion that UCLA announced Friday. Maybe a tell on how the game went is that UCLA had more punting yards, (364 by Stefan Flintoft) than they did total offense (249). There was having to use back-up quarterback Devon Modster, who was 8-15 passing lifetime. He was not even being allowed to throw that many times in the game. Even Mike Fafaul was allowed to air it out 50 times against Utah last season. Or there was Modster leaving the game late in the gamer with an injury and UCLA going to fellow redshirt freshman Matt Lynch. Then there was both teams having players dropping like flies do what appeared to be turf-related injuries.
At the end of it all, Utah ended a four-game losing streak and UCLA, well, UCLA just ended. The mood was set early for the Bruins. On the second play of the game they had to burn a timeout because they only had 10 players on the field. Four minutes into the game they had to use their second timeout because their defensive alignment was all wrong. It’s hard to say if the alignments would have mattered. Utah ran up 506 yards of total offense with a very balanced attack, (234 passing and 272 rushing). Quarterback Tyler Huntley, who has missed much of the season with injuries, was 15 of 22 passing for 234 yards and four touchdowns.
UCLA made it easy for the Utah offense much of the night. After the two teams spent the first 10 minutes of game time trading punts, Mossi Johnson fumbled a Utes punt at his own 19-yard line. From there it only took Huntley three plays to get into the end zone with a Zack Moss three-yard run capping off the drive. Just like that, it was the beginning of the end. UCLA got a 37-yard field goal from J.J. Molson to start the second quarter. Utah marched 73 yards right back with Darren Carrington grabbing a 25-yard touchdown pass from Huntley for the 14-3 lead.
UCLA did mount a quick highlight reel in response. Modster completed a 26-yard pass to Theo Howard who made a stunning one-handed grab with one foot down while falling out of bounds. That was followed on the next play by a 24-yard touchdown pass to Darren Andrews. Utah got in one more field goal at the end of the half for 17-10 lead at the intermission.
For whatever good UCLA was feeling for being close at halftime, the numbers don’t lie. Modster was seven-seven passing, for 101 yards, but that is roughly 50% of what UCLA had been averaging per half. And nearly half of that 101 came on two plays, (Howard and Andrews). In the first quarter the UCLA defense was holding Utah to under two yards per rush. In the second quarter the Utes were getting six-and-a-half yards per run.
Utah made certain there was no question left when the third quarter started. On the first play from scrimmage, Huntley hit Troy McCormick in the back field for a simple wheel route pass. Bruin defensive backs Jaleel Wadood and Darnay Holmes ran into each other and McCormick had a 75-yard touchdown and the Utes had a 24-10 lead.
Utah added short touchdown drives, (three plays in 1:31), and clock killing drive (nine plays, 6:32), and everything in between. UCLA was defenseless, in every sense of the word. The Bruins were already playing without linebacker Josh Woods who had season-ending shoulder surgery earlier in the week. Then they went without linebacker Krys Barnes for much of the second half when he had a buildup of fluid in his lungs. Holmes managed to get kicked out for a targeting foul for the second time this season. The longer the game went on, the worse it got for an already undermanned defensive unit. The night was symbolized by defensive end Jaelan Phillips. Midway through the fourth quarter, Huntley was scrambling behind the line of scrimmage. Phillips chased him down from behind. He got up flexing his biceps, not realizing he had also pushed Huntley across the first down line.
To rub salt in to the wounds, UCLA lost wide receiver Darren Andrews and lineman Ainuu Taua to significant knee injuries. Jim Mora, who avoids discussing injuries at all costs, was transparent after the game. He said it appears Andrews has significant ligament damage in his right knee. Taua has ligament damage and dislocated his knee cap. Both will undergo further tests over the weekend.
Mora discussed the number of players falling from the list of available players. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. Never in my career. So, we’ll just keep fighting, and next man has to step up and do the best that they can.” Statistically, UCLA lost more players in 2015, but when your season is collapsing right before your eyes, everything bad feels like it is the worst.
With a 4-5 overall record, UCLA returns home to Play Arizona State next weekend. That is followed by the trek down the carpool lane to play USC. Then they have the finale at home against Cal on Thanksgiving weekend. The Bruins need to win two of the three to be bowl eligible, with no guarantees of getting a bid anywhere. They have to sweep to ensure a third-tier bowl game. Reality says they have to wonder if Rosen will be back at all this season, or if his UCLA career has come to an ignominious conclusion. Will Andrews be back, or is his injury season ending? What did Jordan Lasley do that has him suspended for three games now? Is defensive coordinator Tom Bradley glad there are no more trips that require an airplane, so he does not get the Lane Kiffin treatment on the tarmac?
There are a lot more questions than there are answers in Westwood right now.