Rice Eccles Stadium was treated to yet another daytime stand-off, this time against PAC-12 foe Oregon State. Utah entered the game on a three-game win streak having comfortably beaten their opponents (Southern Utah, San Diego State, Arizona State) 144-27 in the process.
The Beavers on the other hand were coming off of a loss to No. 6 USC in a late 17-14 comeback win for the Trojans. Both Utah and Oregon State were 3-1 coming into the game.
Positive - Clark Phillips III
The Utes offense has struggled to get going in the first quarter through the first few games of the season. After winning the toss and electing to kick, it took only two plays for Clark Phillips III to pick off Chance Nolan and return the ball to OSU’s 25-yard line. Cam Rising capped the ensuing drive off with a 19-yard TD pass to Jaylen Dixon.
Following a Beaver TD, Phillips yet again picked off Nolan for a second time, returning the ball 38-yards for a pick-six and giving Utah a 14-7 advantage.
Phillips became one of seven players in Utah’s history, one of nine active FBS players, and the only active PAC-12 player to record three or more career pick-sixes.
Oregon State learned its lesson and kept the ball away from Phillips in the second half. That was until halfway through the fourth quarter when Oregon State backup quarterback Ben Gulbranson attempted a pass into the corner of the end zone, only to be picked by Phillips with an acrobatic leap in front of intended receiver Tyjon Lindsey.
Phillips’ third interception of the game tied him for second-most interceptions in a single game in Utah history.
“He’s got exceptional quickness and speed… he’s physical when he needs to be… there’s nobody that studies more film than Clark and that leads to big plays” Coach Whittingham said.
Negative - Offensive Efficiency (First half)
Although the Utes led at halftime, it was ultimately the defense that stalled OSU with key tackles and turnovers early on. Phillips’ two interceptions in the first quarter led to a short Utah TD drive and a pick-six.
With the absence of Brant Kuithe, Utah’s offense struggled to get going with four three-and-outs in the first half and five punts.
The second TD drive came as a result of Cam doing what Cam does well; running. The 60-yard TD drive came as a result of Cam’s 40 yards rushing on the drive, including a touchdown run where he avoided two tackles, stiff-armed the last defender and tip-toed into the end zone.
Utah’s receivers combined for 60 yards and one touchdown in the first half compared to 139 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.
The second-half offensive resurgence saw Cam finding eight different receivers throughout the game. Devaughn Vele, Dalton Kincaid, and Jaylen Dixon all with receiving touchdowns on the day.
Notably, Vele led all receivers with seven receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Wide Receiver Solomon Enis was not available for today's game.
Positive - RJ Hubert
An explosive year for RJ Hubert culminated in today’s performance where he led the team with eight tackles in the first half, twice as many as any other player (credit to Junior Tafuna, Karene Reid, and Mohamoud Diabate with four tackles each in the first half).
Late in the third quarter, just when Oregon State looked like they were about to mount a comeback, RJ Hubert picked off backup Oregon State QB Ben Gulbranson in the end zone and returned it for a stunning 70 yards.
Hubert continued his tackling prowess throughout the second half. When the first line of the Ute's defense failed, Hubert was there with the tackle. Hubert ended the game resetting his season-high tackle count of 12 (previously eight against Florida).
Negative - Running Game
Oregon State’s rush defense lived up to its legacy by holding Utah’s running backs to a combined eight rushes for 16 yards (2 yard average) in the first half. Rising led the Utes in rushing in the first half for 50 yards and a TD. According to Kyle Whittingham, most of Cam’s runs were not designed run plays. Utah just couldn’t seem to find the opening they needed to kick-start the run game.
Coach Whittingham was “very concerned” with the run game today. “We had too many linebacker run-throughs… we have to do a better job of keeping our head and eyes up on the combinations,” Coach Whittingham said.
Micah Bernard seemed to be the most prolific of the running backs with six carries for 19 yards, but was better utilized as a receiver with three receptions for 37 yards, 27 of which were yards after contact.
Jaylen Dixon came in at running back for one carry which resulted in a 22-yard touchdown.
Positive - Defense
This game was chalked up to be a defensive battle and it certainly was, at least in the first half anyway. The Beavers smothered the Ute’s run game throughout and stalled the offense in the first half with back-to-back three-and-outs.
Utah has held opponents scoreless on all opening drives through the first five games this season, including a forced fumble against Florida in week one and Phillips’ interception against the Beavers.
Multiple players set or reset season-high tackles during this game, including Junior Tafuna’s six tackles (previously three), Mohamoud Diabate’s 3.0 tackles for loss in the first half (4.0 total), and RJ Hubert’s 12 total tackles (previously eight).
Despite several plays where the defense allowed sizable gains, including Oregon State’s only touchdown of the game, the Utes defense rallied to hold OSU to just three field goals for the remainder of the game. Overall, Utah's red zone and fourth down defense was nearly perfect.
Positive - The Crowd
With an official attendance of 51,729, the Utes crowd showed up and cheered all game long. The Moment of Loudness between quarters three and four, a Rice Eccles tradition in remembrance of Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe, cemented the love that this crowd has for this Utes team. Every TD, INT and third-down, the crowd made themselves known.
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