Nov 18, 2023; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Utah Utes running back Ja'Quinden Jackson (3) is tackled by Arizona Wildcats defensive lineman Bill Norton (45) and linebacker Jacob Manu (5) during the first half at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 Arizona starts fast, defeats No. 22 Utah

No. 17 Arizona raced to an early 28-0 lead, including scoring on a blocked punt return, and the Wildcats won their fifth consecutive game by beating No. 22 Utah 42-18 on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.

Arizona (8-3, 6-2 Pac-12) kept alive hopes of reaching the conference championship game by defeating its fourth ranked team during its winning streak, which is the school’s longest since starting the 2014 season with five consecutive wins.

Noah Fifita passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns for the Wildcats, who led Utah (7-4, 4-4) by four touchdowns one play into the second quarter. But the Utes, playing without three key defenders, battled to within 28-10 before Arizona’s Treydan Stukes intercepted a pass from Bryson Barnes with 11:22 left.

Arizona responded with a 61-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Jonah Coleman, to make it 35-10 with 7:57 left in regulation to help seal the outcome.

Utah did add a touchdown and two-point conversion in the final minute. Arizona decided it wasn’t done yet, as backup Jayden de Laura threw deep and completed a 51-yard touchdown pass to Tetairoa McMillan with 32 seconds remaining.

Fifita completed 22 of 30 passes with no interceptions. Coleman ran for 90 yards on 14 carries.

Barnes was 31 of 53 for 320 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Three of Utah’s top five tacklers did not play due to injury — linebacker Karene Reid (54 tackles), safety Cole Bishop (53) and defensive end Jonah Elliss (37 tackles, 16 for loss, 12 sacks).

The Wildcats secured their first eight-win season since going 10-4 in 2014.

Arizona struck on the opening possession on a trick play. McMillan took a lateral to the left and threw a long pass to the back right corner of the end zone for a 21-yard score to wide-open Michael Wiley.

After the Wildcats forced a three-and-out, Anthony Ward blocked a punt and returned it 2 yards to the end zone to put Arizona up 14-0.

Fifita completed touchdown passes of 32 yards to Montana Lemonious-Craig in the first quarter and 31 yards to Wiley on the first play of the second quarter to give Arizona a 28-0 lead.

The score remained the same through a rainy second quarter until Utah broke through with a 92-yard drive, capped by Barnes’ 20-yard TD pass to Devaughn Vele with 52 seconds to go before halftime.

–Field Level Media

Nov 11, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies running back Dillon Johnson (7) carries the ball after a catch against the Utah Utes during the first half at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 Washington stays perfect with wild win over No. 18 Utah

Michael Penix Jr. passed for 332 yards and two touchdowns, both to Rome Odunze, as No. 5 Washington outlasted No. 18 Utah for a 35-28 victory on a windy and wet Saturday afternoon in Seattle.

Dillon Johnson added 104 yards rushing and a score for the Huskies (10-0, 7-0 Pac-12). Grady Gross kicked two field goals for Washington, but his third attempt, a 32-yarder with 1:38 remaining was blocked, giving the Utes one last chance.

The Huskies’ Dominique Hampton intercepted a fourth-and-10 pass at Utah’s 43-yard line with 44 seconds left to seal the victory.

The Utes (7-3, 4-3) saw their chances for a third consecutive Pac-12 title come to an end.

Bryson Barnes completed 17 of 30 passes for 267 yards, with two TDS and two interceptions, for the Utes and Ja’Quinden Jackson rushed for two scores.

The Huskies outscored Utah 11-0 in a wild third quarter to take a 35-28 lead.

Gross kicked a 38-yard field goal to pull Washington within 28-27.

The Huskies regained the lead as Penix threw a 33-yard scoring strike to Odunze down the middle. A two-point conversion attempt failed, as tight end Devin Culp couldn’t hold on to a pass from Odunze and he slipped it the back of the end zone, making it 33-28.

It appeared the Huskies might put the game away when Alphonzo Tuputala intercepted a pass at his own 23 and raced down the right sideline, headed for a pick-six. But Tuputala dropped the ball before he crossed the goal line and began celebrating while Utah offensive lineman Michael Mokofisi raced back and fell on the ball at the 1-yard line.

The Huskies got something out of it, as Jackson was tackled in the end zone on the next play by Carson Bruener and Tuli Letuligasenoa for a safety, giving Washington a 35-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Utes took a 28-24 lead after a back-and-forth first half, scoring touchdowns on their last four drives.

The Huskies opened the scoring on a 2-yard run by Penix around the left end.

The Utes responded with Jackson’s 2-yard touchdown run.

Washington had to settle for Gross’ 41-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead after the first quarter. Barnes threw a 6-yard TD pass to Miki Suguturaga to give the Utes their first lead.

Penix answered with a 34-yard scoring strike to Odunze in the back right corner of the end zone to make it 17-14.

The Utes needed just two plays to regain the lead, as Simone Vaki took a screen pass and outraced the UW secondary down the left sideline.

Dillon Johnson’s 5-yard run put the Huskies back up before Jackson scored on a 7-yard run with 57 seconds left in the second quarter to give Utah a four-point advantage.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Bryson Barnes (16) steps out of the pocket against the Oregon Ducks during the first half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports

No. 18 Utah looks to rebound at home vs. Arizona State

Utah will attempt to start another winning streak at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday when Arizona State visits after having its 18-game run ended last week in a 35-6 drubbing by Oregon.

The Utes (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) are rated No. 18 in the first College Football Playoffs rankings revealed Tuesday.

They did not score an offensive touchdown against the Ducks — the first time that has happened since 2018.

Utah finished with 241 yards of total offense and was relegated to two field goals.

The performance of Utah quarterback Bryson Barnes against Oregon was a topic of discussion in coach Kyle Whittingham’s news conference on Monday.

Barnes completed 15 of 29 pass attempts for 136 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions against the Ducks.

Whittingham was asked if he has considered giving backup quarterback Brandon Rose an opportunity to play.

Rose challenged for the starting spot after Cam Rising was ruled out to start the season because of a serious knee injury suffered last season in the Rose Bowl against Penn State.

“Whoever gives us the best chance to win is who we’ll try it out there, and if Brandon becomes that guy, then yes, that would happen,” Whittingham said. “But right now Bryson Barnes is our guy, and our No. 1 quarterback at this point in time.”

Arizona State (2-6, 1-4) is coming off the first Pac-12 win under first-year coach Kenny Dillingham, a 38-27 win over visiting Washington State last week.

The Sun Devils gained a season-high 509 yards with 235 yards on the ground.

Dillingham said Arizona State must continue to play with a tough, physical style with the run game and on defense to match the challenge Utah will present.

“This is the culture that we want, that I envision here,” Dillingham said of the Utes’ reputation of being stout on both lines and with their defense under Whittingham, in his 19th year as head coach. “A coach who’s established physicality in the program and toughness — that’s what we’re trying to build here.

“This is the gold standard in the league, in my opinion, for what a program should look like and should feel like.”

Dillinghman is counting on poised senior quarterback Trenton Bourguet and an improving defense to play well in another hostile environment after challenging Washington in Seattle two weeks ago before losing 15-7.

Arizona State practiced in its indoor facility this week with piped-in noise, similar to the week leading up to the Washington game.

“We went in the bubble,” Dillingham said. “We made ourselves deaf for five days. That is the only way to prepare is to practice. We go in the bubble, we play their fight song and we play crowd noise as loud as you possibly can till your ears ring.”

Arizona State did not allow an offensive touchdown against Washington.

Bourguet has only one touchdown pass with three interceptions while completing 109 of 171 passes (63.7 percent) for 1,196 yards.

The Sun Devils are No. 4 in the Pac-12 in total defense, allowing 340.9 yards a game.

–Field Level Media

Oct 14, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Bryson Barnes (16) runs in for a touchdown against the California Golden Bears in the second half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 Utah aims to extend win streak over No. 18 USC

No. 14 Utah visits Los Angeles on Saturday night seeking its fourth straight win over No. 18 Southern California in Pac-12 Conference action.

Utah (5-1, 2-1) handed USC its only loss of the 2022 regular season — a 43-42 nail-biter in Salt Lake City — then denied the Trojans both a conference title and possible berth in the College Football Playoff with a 47-24 rout in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Throughout the 2023 season, the Utes have been without a star from both of those games, however. Quarterback Cameron Rising continues to recover from a torn ACL suffered in January’s Rose Bowl loss to Penn State.

“It’s a situation where we’re just waiting, week after week, for a thumbs-up,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said in his Monday press conference of both Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe, who also has yet to play this season.

Rising threw for a combined 725 yards and five touchdowns in the two wins against the Trojans last season.

In Utah’s most recent game, a 34-14 victory last Saturday against Cal, Bryson Barnes put up modest passing stats –15 of 21 for 128 yards — to improve his overall numbers this season to 38 of 66 for 398 yards and one touchdown, with two interceptions. His 50 yards rushing on eight carries with a touchdown contributed to a 317-yard onslaught for Utah on the ground, however, with Sione Vaki’s 158 yards and two scores leading the way.

The Utah defense held an opponent to 14 or fewer points for the fifth time this season, all wins.

Southern Cal (6-1, 4-0) has been a mirror-opposite of Utah, with one of the nation’s most prolific offenses at 47.3 points per game but a defense that has given up an average of 30 points per contest.

The Trojans gave up at least 41 points in each of their last three games. One of those, a 43-41 defeat of Arizona on Oct. 7, went to three overtimes. Last week, though, USC surrendered a season-high 48 points while scoring just 20 points in a blowout loss at Notre Dame.

“The Notre Dame game is very applicable,” Whittingham said of referencing how the Fighting Irish slowed the Trojans’ offense last week in preparation for Saturday. “We’ll also go back and look at our two games last year. We do as much research and homework as you can.”

Notre Dame forced Southern Cal into five turnovers, including picking off reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams three times in the first half.

After throwing just five interceptions in 14 games a season ago, Williams has thrown four this season. The Utes have intercepted seven passes this season.

“Especially against good teams and good defenses like we faced last week, and like we’re getting ready to face again this week, you’ve got to have all 11 (players) clicking,” Trojans coach Lincoln Riley said on his radio show on Monday night. “And when we do, we can play. But we’ve got to do it more often.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 23, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) warms up before a game against the UCLA Bruins at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Sidelined Utah QB Cameron Rising details more injuries

Standout quarterback Cameron Rising, who has yet to play this season for No. 18 Utah, said Thursday that his injuries in last year’s Rose Bowl game were more severe than reported.

Rising said that in addition to the torn anterior cruciate ligament as has been chronicled, he also tore his meniscus, medial collateral ligament and medial patellofemoral ligament in his knee.

“I wasn’t really expecting to do this, but I think it’s important that I just let everybody know that I didn’t just tear my ACL,” Rising said during an appearance on “The Bill Riley Show,” a sports talk radio program and podcast in Utah.

“I tore my ACL, meniscus, MPFL and MCL,” continued Rising, who has been practicing with the team. “There was a big surgery, and it’s not an easy comeback. I’ve been working my tail off.”

Rising is a senior in his fourth season at Utah, not including sitting out the 2019 campaign after transferring following a redshirt season at Texas in 2018. He became the full-time starter in 2021 and led the Utes to two straight Pac-12 championships. He was injured in a 31-25 loss to Penn State on Jan. 2 at the Rose Bowl.

Utah (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) is coming off its first defeat last week at Oregon State. The Utes’ next game is Oct. 14 at home against California.

In Rising’s place this season, junior Bryson Barnes is 23 of 45 for 270 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, and redshirt freshman Nate Johnson is 39 of 72 for 499 yards, three TDs and no picks.

“I’ve been grinding and doing everything I possibly can,” Rising said in the interview. “Even the fact that I’m going out there and practicing and everything, I’m ahead of schedule. I’m trying to make sure I can be out there, because nobody wants to be out there grinding with those guys on the field more than me. But at the end of the day, it’s my body, and my body has to recover. … I’ll be back as soon as I’m ready to go.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 16, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham looks on in the first half against the Weber State Wildcats at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Utes go truckin’: Every scholarship player receives new truck

Utah football players will driving to practice in style.

On Wednesday, the 85 scholarship players each received a 2024 Dodge Ram 1500 Big Horn truck, leased for them for one year, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. It’s being funded largely by Crimson Collective, an organization that puts Utah athletes in touch with name, image and likeness deals.

To receive a truck, the players must agree to promote the Crimson Collective to help it boost NIL opportunities for other student-athletes. They also will be encouraged to do community service and must have a good driving record, The Tribune said.

Yahoo Sports reported that each truck will bear an ad for the streaming app For The Win 360 (FTW360), a co-sponsor of the deal. The sponsors are paying for the leases of the truck, which has an MSRP of $43,970, as well as the insurance, per the report. The leases will roll over as long as a player remains on the team. Anyone who is out of eligibility or transfers will need to turn it in.

“Honestly, I can’t even believe it. It still seems unreal, man,” defensive tackle Junior Tafuna told The Tribune. “But just grateful for the opportunity that we’re able to get one.”

Dignitaries on hand when the players learned they’ would be receiving a truck admitted Utah must jump deeply into the NIL game to recruit the top student-athletes. Utah is moving to the Big 12 in 2024, which traditionally has been a hotbed for high school football.

“I know we can all do more,” athletic director Mark Harlan said. “So my challenge to everyone here and then outside of this room is we all need to lean into NIL. It is here. … So let it not be said that it’s not a huge priority of this athletic department, and this athletic director.”

Kyle Whittingham, who took over the coaching duties at Utah from Urban Meyer at the end of the 2004 season, said NIL availability is recruiting reality.

“This is huge for our players, it’s huge for recruiting going forward. This is going to … give us a leg up on recruiting, which is what it’s all about,” he said.

No. 18 Utah (4-1) will host Cal on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Utah Utes defensive tackle Keanu Tanuvasa (57) tackles Baylor Bears running back Richard Reese (29) during the second half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

No. 22 UCLA looking to dent No. 11 Utah’s defense

With starting quarterback Cameron Rising sidelined as he continues to recover from a torn ACL, No. 11 Utah has had to rely on its defense through the first three weeks of the season.

That unit has held its own so far, but it will face its biggest challenge Saturday when the Utes face No. 22 UCLA in Salt Lake City in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.

Utah (3-0) ranks 17th in total defense in the FBS — an average of 270.7 yards allowed per game — after a suffocating performance in last weekend’s 31-7 victory over Weber State. The Utes held the Wildcats to 127 yards of total offense while coming away with a pair of turnovers.

“We got a lot of confidence in that defense, and they’ve performed very well through three games,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We know that we’re not gonna have to score … 40 points to win.

“The defense has done a nice job of keeping teams out of the end zone and points off the board.”

But now the Utes will be tasked with slowing a high-octane Bruins offense that just racked 614 total yards in a 59-7 drubbing of North Carolina Central last Saturday.

The Bruins (3-0) got a pair of touchdowns and 182 yards on 8-of-12 passing from Dante Moore, but they did most of their damage on the ground, as five players rushed for at least 60 yards and a score. Anthony Adkins led the pack with 96 yards on 10 carries.

UCLA will look to replicate that performance as it attempts to win at Rice-Eccles Stadium for the first time since 2015.

“Rice-Eccles is a difficult venue. They got a great home-crowd advantage,” Bruins coach Chip Kelly said. “I think winning on the road in the Pac-12 is difficult anywhere.

“But I think the crowd in Utah is awesome. They have great support for their football program, and they’re a really good team and they’re really well-coached.”

If Rising is able to make his season debut, that atmosphere will be even more intense, but if he doesn’t, Nate Johnson will be under center. Johnson got his first collegiate start against Weber State, completing 13 of 21 passes for 193 yards and a TD. He also rushed for a team-high 71 yards and a score.

Kelly knows his team has to be prepared for whatever Utah throws its way.

“There’s probably a little bit more quarterback-driven run when Nate’s in there, but that doesn’t mean Cam can’t. Cam’s beaten a lot of teams with his legs too,” Kelly said. “Their offense is their offense; you gotta prepare for it all.”

Whittingham hopes his team can stay on an even keel as conference play begins.

“Every week’s the same to me. Every game counts the same, every game is darn important,” Whittingham said. “I think that’s been one of our strengths through the years, is to not get on the roller coaster, just be at a high level every week and prepare the same way.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 16, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes running back Ja'Quinden Jackson (3) runs against Weber State Wildcats cornerback Jalon Rock (23) in the second half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

No. 12 Utah stifles Weber State, 31-7

Nate Johnson racked up 264 combined yards and accounted for two touchdowns in his first start at quarterback to lead No. 12 Utah past visiting Weber State, 31-7 on Saturday in Salt Lake City.

Johnson, a redshirt freshman, filling in for the injured Cam Rising, connected on 13 of 21 passes for 193 yards and a TD, while rushing 16 times for 71 yards and another score.

Utah improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2019 after limiting Weber State (2-1) to 127 total yards. The Utes gained 424 yards on offense against the FCS foe.

Johnson put Utah up 7-0 in the first quarter on a 1-yard rush.

Kicker Joey Cheek added to the score with his first career field goal from 37 yards out at 13:29 of the second quarter.

Weber State trimmed the margin to 10-7 with a 3-yard touchdown plunge by Kris Jackson at 10:46 before halftime. The Wildcats’ only score of the game was set up by a 47-yard run by Damon Bankston.

Johnson helped Utah take a 17-7 lead by hooking up with Money Parks for a 13-yard touchdown reception with 5:00 left in the half.

The Utes dominated the second half, limiting Weber State to 28 yards.

Jaylon Glover gave Utah a 24-7 lead with a 2-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.

Lander Barton capped the scoring with a 23-yard interception return for the Utes. That play gave Utah a pick-six in its 20th straight season, extending the longest active streak in the FBS.

Weber State quarterback Kylan Weisser completed 11 of 23 passes for 66 yards.

Ja’Quinden Jackson rushed nine times for 69 yards and Glover finished with 47 yards rushing on 12 carries for Utah.

The Utes begin their Pac-12 schedule against UCLA next Saturday, when it’s possible that Rising could make his first appearance since undergoing offseason knee surgery.

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Nate Johnson (13) carries the ball against the Baylor Bears during the second half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

No. 12 Utah makes QB change for Weber State game

It’s still uncertain when injured Cam Rising will return for Utah, but the No. 12 Utes would have a new starting quarterback regardless on Saturday when they host unbeaten Weber State in Salt Lake City.

After leading Utah to a 20-13 win in the Texas heat at Baylor last Saturday, freshman Nate Johnson has been promoted to the QB1 position for the final non-conference game if, as expected, Rising is unable to go.

Johnson would replace previous starter Bryson Barnes, who filled in for Rising until being replaced midway through the comeback win over the Bears.

Johnson helped the Utes (2-0) turn a one-touchdown deficit at the beginning of the fourth quarter into a second win over an FBS team, finishing with 82 yards on 6-of-7 passing, a game-tying touchdown keeper and 32 yards on 11 rushes.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham announced Monday that Johnson will take over while Rising continues to work his way back from offseason knee surgery.

“I would say based on the whole body of work that we’ve seen, Nate deserves the chance. He’ll be the starter if Cam’s not available,” Whittingham said. “That’s where we’re at, that’s after a lot of evaluation and giving everybody the opportunity to show what they can do. Nate was very poised on that last drive. I think he made some outstanding decisions, outstanding plays.”

Utah trailed 13-6 midway through the fourth quarter in Waco, Texas, when Johnson led the squad on a 15-play, 85-yard drive to tie the game 13-13 on a 7-yard keeper with 1:59 left. The Utes went ahead 20-13 on an 11-yard run by Jaylon Glover after Cole Bishop intercepted a Baylor pass.

Ja’Quinden Jackson also made a strong impression against Baylor, rushing for a career-high 129 yards on 19 carries.

However, Utah will be without No. 2 running back Micah Bernard, who is out for the season due to an unspecified injury.

Weber State (2-0) enters this in-state game as the seventh-ranked FCS team in the AFCA Coaches Poll. The Wildcats won 34-17 at Northern Iowa on Saturday by compiling 390 yards of offense and creating six turnovers.

Damon Bankston (144 yards rushing, three touchdowns) and Jack Kelly (four tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, one tipped pass) earned Big Sky Conference Player of the Week awards for their performances against Northern Iowa.

Utah has won the previous six meetings against Weber State, including 40-17 in 2021.

“They are who they are, and they don’t shy away from that, no matter who the quarterback is, what guys they have banged up. I think that’s a true testament of a great program,” Weber State coach Mickey Mental said of Utah. “Obviously, Coach Whitt and his staff recruit to who they are. They win physically, violent, and run the football and play really good defense and special teams. It will be a really great test for us.”

Utah, which has wins over Florida and Baylor so far, will begin its Pac-12 schedule next week vs. No. 24 UCLA.

“Still trying to get guys healthy; that’s an ongoing challenge,” Whittingham said. “But we’re in pretty good position right now after two (Power 5) games of coming away with two victories and ready to move on.”

–Field Level Media