Los Angeles Times
A BIG STEP BACK
Showdown at Rose Bowl turns into smack-down by the Utes
It was a throwback performance, reminiscent of much darker days.
There were dropped passes, missed tackles and poorly timed penalties in front of small crowd that dwindled considerably in the final minutes.
UCLA’s showdown against No. 23 Utah turned into a smack-down Friday night at the Rose Bowl, the Bruins battered by their own shortcomings as much as a brawnier and more poised opponent.
Utah bullied its way to a 41-10 victory, a potential share of first place in the Pac-12 Conference’s South Division slipping away from the Bruins like Utes tailback Zack Moss through the arms of flailing defenders.
It was the Bruins’ worst home loss since a 35-0 setback against Stanford in 2010.
Moss finished with 211 yards rushing and three touchdowns, leading a relentless Utah offense that notched scores on its first four drives of the second half to spark a runaway.
The Utes’ defense was equally stingy after spotting UCLA (2-6 overall, 2-3 Pac-12) an early 7-3 lead. Bruins tailback Joshua Kelley ran for a 25-yard touchdown on the way to 90 yards in 16 carries, a solid average of 5.6 yards per carry even though he fell short of a fifth consecutive 100-yard game.
It was pretty much the extent of UCLA’s offense.
Bruins quarterback Wilton Speight was spotty in his first start since the season opener, completing 20 of 40 passes for 164 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Speight got the start with freshman counterpart Dorian Thompson-Robinson apparently still sidelined by an upper-body injury.
By game’s end, the UCLA student section had almost been entirely vacated. A crowd of 41,848 that had been energized when the Bruins held their brief lead diminished to the point that there were large empty swaths of seats.
Most of the fans remaining were wearing red, lingering to celebrate a triumph that moved the Utes (6-2, 4-2) into sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 South. Utah fans had made themselves at home for most of the eve-
ning, a plane toting a banner reading “GO UTES!” circling the stadium in the hours before kickoff.
UCLA looked like it had trotted out its 2017 team for much of the first half.
What had the makings of a long touchdown pass from Speight to a streaking Demetric Felton went off Felton’s hands for an incompletion. A false start on lineman Chigozie Nnoruka turned J.J. Molson’s 47-yard field goal attempt into a 52-yard attempt that fell a few yards short of the crossbar.
A slew of missed tackles also hurt. Badly.
Moss bounced off one defender on an eight-yard gain. Receiver Britain Covey slipped two tackles on a 17yard reception when the Utes needed 15 to convert the third down. Receiver Demari Simpkins dragged cornerback Elijah Gates along for several yards on a 20yard reception.
Utah went from bruising to cunning on its first touchdown, Covey taking the ball on a reverse and throwing a seven-yard pass to tight end Cole Fotheringham in the end zone to give the Utes a 10-7 lead.
The Utes went back to the ground almost exclusively on their next drive, punctuating a punishing seven-play, 36-yard drive that included six running plays with Moss’ one-yard touchdown run to go ahead 17-7.
UCLA’s defense was a different sort of story in the early going. Utah twice had the ball inside the Bruins’ 15yard line and came away with only three points.
The Utes had a first and goal at the UCLA five-yard line in the first quarter after the Bruins’ Adarius Pickett dropped a punt and Utah recovered. But a third-down pass was batted down by UCLA defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia and Utah had to kick a 22-yard field goal.
Utah later drove to the Bruins’ 12-yard line after Moss ripped off a 60-yard run. But that drive ended when UCLA safety Quentin Lake made a leaping interception of a Tyler Huntley pass in the end zone. It was Lake’s second interception in as many games, both coming in the end zone.
But UCLA lost the turnover battle, committing three to Utah’s one, after having gone plus-seven in that department during its two-game winning streak.
It was an emphatic end to the Bruins’ hopes of a storybook run following an 0-5 start.