The Utah Utes came to Pasadena on a warm fall night and had control of this game from the start. While UCLA had an early lead in the first quarter, it didn’t last long. Both teams gave up a turnover in the first half to give the illusion that this game was anybody’s, but with the inability to stop the run and contain dual threat quarterback Tyler Huntley, the Bruins fell to the Utes 41-10.
The big story of the night is Ute running back Zack Moss. He surpassed the 200 yard mark in the beginning of the fourth quarter, and looked like an absolute freight train tonight scoring three touchdowns. Britain Covey was clutch in key moments, throwing a passing touchdown for the second time this season (he was actually a quarterback in high school). This was something we should have been prepared for, but we clearly weren’t. With Moss’s success on the ground, Huntley only had to throw 21 passes and completed 13.
In addition, UCLA had trouble getting anything going on the ground and in the air, with Josh Kelley’s streak of 100+ yard games broken tonight by the Ute tough defense. Quarterback Wilton Speight was mediocre at best, but dropped balls and poorly thrown passes haunted the Bruins all four quarters. The size of the Ute defense cannot be an underestimated element, as each player on their front line (save one) weighs in at over 300 pounds and doesn’t waste an ounce when tackling.
Penalties were down from last week, but a key false start penalty at the tail end of the second quarter resulted in J.J. Molson attempting a field goal from 52 yards instead of 47, which ended up making all the difference. The kick was short and also looked a hair wide on TV, but probably would have been good if he had been able to kick from just a bit closer.
In the second half, Speight didn’t come out of the locker room looking any better than he did in the first half. He threw an interception on his first drive of the third quarter which the Utes almost immediately turned into another touchdown, and from there Utah was unstoppable. Their offense was clicking and the defense held us off, and the game looked more like UCLA week two than UCLA week eight.
With 8:47 remaining in the third quarter, senior safety Marquise Blair was ejected for targeting Speight as he was sliding feet first in an attempt to get a first down. Even with 15 yards tacked on, the Bruins were unsuccessful getting into the endzone and settled for a 27-yard field goal.
After leaving four points on the table, the Bruin defense was looking dejected and completely incapable of stopping Moss. He seemed to run at will, exposing the weaknesses and youth of the UCLA defenders. Tackling was at an all-time low tonight, with our defense looking like they were either afraid to tackle or just flat out didn’t know what they were doing, both of which we all know isn’t true. So why do we play so soft? Why are we letting opposing offenses gain extra yards because we either can’t wrap up or can’t tackle directly?
The poor defensive play was coupled with an offense that just couldn’t click. Even in the fourth when the Bruins were in striking distance of the endzone, Speight threw a second interception under pressure and handed the ball right back to Utah. At that point it was garbage time and Utah was subbing in second stringers. All the Utes had to do was grind out the clock with a slow game on the ground, and that is exactly what they did. When time ran out, they had hung 470 yards on us and held us to 301.
As I was watching the game and following the comments on our second half thread, it got so bad that Bruins Nation community members were lamenting for the return of injured quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and discussing the upcoming basketball game. The fans are just as low as the team right now, and even the sideline reporter commented on the lack of energy in the Bruin sideline.
As a side note, I have a major bone to pick with the Pac 12 “referees”. I’ve got quotation marks there because I use the term loosely. Prime example is the targeting call on Blair-I know all targeting fouls are reviewed, but a flag wasn’t immediately thrown when our defenseless ball carrier was hit directly in the head by another player’s helmet. Multiple holding calls, blocks in the back and dirty tackles were missed and made these guys look like the national joke that they are. This in no way excuses the poor play by our Bruins, but the abysmal performance by this crew and others is the worst trend in our conference right now.
This whole game felt absolutely flat. Weekday games in Los Angeles, in my opinion, are absolutely unacceptable. We have season tickets but didn’t make it to this game because fighting L.A. traffic would have resulted in three hours on the freeway just to see our team lose. The Dodger game didn’t help, but you could tell on T.V. that the crowd wasn’t in it and it didn’t even appear that the team was ever in it. Energy was low, performance was subpar, and we took more steps back than we did following what some said was actually a respectable performance in our loss against the Oklahoma Sooners.
A trip to Autzen after a performance like this does not bode well. I really hope our only wins of the season are not behind us, but tonight’s performance gives us every indication that 2-10 is a distinct possibility. I’m still behind our Bruins, but it’s looking pretty ugly at this point.