Utah has been rolling up the points and stuffing down rushing attacks.
The No. 23 Utes will test that formula again on Friday night when they visit suddenly hot UCLA on Friday night in Pac-12 play at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
Utah (5-2, 3-2 Pac-12) has a share of the lead in the Pac-12 South and is looking to stretch its winning streak to four games. The Utes have scored 40 or more points in three consecutive contests for the first time since 2010, and they lead the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 74.6 yards per game.
“We have had some stout run defenses in the past, and that has always been the first objective as a defense is to take away the run,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We have outstanding personnel, and we’ve had good personnel in the past as well, but this group really seems to be finding their place at each position. Each guy has really done a good job.”
Senior linebacker Chase Hansen has been the star attraction with 63 tackles, including 14 for losses. Hansen also has two interceptions and one fumble recovery for a unit allowing 17.7 points per game, which ranks 16th in the country.
UCLA (2-5, 2-2) has won consecutive games after a rough start. The Bruins will aim to test the Utah rush defense with red-hot junior running back Joshua Kelley.
Kelley has recorded four straight 100-yard games, including a 136-yard effort last Saturday in UCLA’s 31-30 win over Arizona. Kelley has 569 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the season. He got 30 or more carries in each of the past two games as UCLA averaged 34 points in the two wins.
“Now we have some experience winning games, and we have some momentum,” Kelley told reporters. “These two wins are a tremendous confidence-builder.”
The identity of the Bruins’ starting quarterback won’t be decided until later in the week.
True freshman starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson left the Arizona game with an apparent shoulder injury and was replaced by senior Wilton Speight.
Speight is getting most of the practice repetitions, but Bruins coach Chip Kelly describes Thompson-Robinson as “good to go” while being coy about the situation.
“We’ll get to the weekend and find out who’s playing,” Kelly said.
Utes’ Huntley red-hot
There is no mystery regarding Utah’s quarterback. Junior Tyler Huntley is coming off perhaps his best overall game, matching career highs for both passing yardages (341) and touchdown passes (four) last Saturday during a 41-28 victory over Southern California.
“Probably so,” Whittingham said when asked if it was Huntley’s top performance. “He has had some really good games for us. His passing rating was outstanding, it was right in the 200s, which is as good as you are going to find. He took care of the football. He ran the football effectively and got out of some really tough spots in the pocket a couple of times. So yeah, I think I would have to agree with that.”
Huntley has thrown for 1,562 yards and 11 touchdowns against three interceptions. He also has rushed for four scores.
UCLA has struggled defensively and is allowing 31.3 points per game, the 96th-ranked figure in the country. The Bruins have allowed 30 or more on five occasions.
Senior safety Adarius Pickett has been a bright spot with a team-best 77 tackles.
The Bruins hold a 11-5 series edge, but the Utes have won the past two meetings.
–Field Level Media