Three and Out: Utah downs UCLA to further muddle Pac-12 picture
In a weekend full of upsets, Utah added one more. The Utes defeated No. 8 UCLA 30-28 on Saturday night. Here are three quick thoughts from the game:
1. Learn Kendal Thompson’s name
Quarterback Travis Wilson’s return was the story of Utah’s preseason, but by the Utes’ fourth series on Saturday, it was out with the old and in with the new: Junior Kendal Thompson came in and gave Utah a spark, keeping drives alive with his legs. His final line wasn’t overwhelming (10 of 13 for 95 yards with one touchdown; 19 carries for 83 yards), but he was efficient. After a huge road win, the Oklahoma transfer is likely the Utes’ starter from here on out. He certainly earned it.
2. UCLA’s offensive line is atrocious
Remember all that talk about UCLA's improved offensive line? Lies. After quarterback Brett Hundley was sacked a staggering 10 times on Saturday night, it’s a miracle he could still walk at the end of the game. Yes, sometimes the Heisman Trophy candidate is guilty of holding on to the ball too long. But he’s pretty good when has adequate time in the pocket. Hundley went 16 of 21 for 269 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He has been sacked a lot in his UCLA career, but Saturday took it to a new level.
The Bruins host Oregon next Saturday, which also comes limping into the Rose Bowl after losing to an unranked team (Arizona). It’s doubtful UCLA can fix all of its protection problems in one week, but if it doesn’t get markedly better by the end of the season -- heck, by the end of the month -- offensive line coach Adrian Klemm might be looking for a new job soon.
3. Utah’s win over Stanford in 2013 wasn't the aberration everyone thought
When the Utes stunned the Cardinal last October in Salt Lake City, everyone wondered how it could happen. Here’s how: Utah is one of the most physical teams in the Pac-12, and it’s a program used to success. Kyle Whittingham and staff have struggled since moving from the Mountain West, but he didn’t suddenly become a bad coach. Utah played a few other close games last year, and lost some in heartbreaking fashion. It has been due for some big wins. Now, with Thompson at quarterback, it might start finishing games. A win like this could do a lot for a program’s confidence and momentum -- and with the mess that is the Pac-12, maybe the Utes will emerge to be pretty good. They proved tonight, just like TCU, that they are worthy of being in a Power Five conference.
Also worth noting: Utah has one of the best kickers in the country, and Andy Phillips was clutch in Pasadena. He connected on all three field goal attempts, including a 48-yarder. He also hit a 48-yard field goal against Stanford last year. Utah is known as a defensive program, but almost always gets points in the red zone. Having Phillips can be the difference in low-scoring affairs.