Sep 9, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Dorian Singer (15) catches a 19-yard touchdown pass against the Stanford Cardinal in the first half at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Utah lands WR Dorian Singer on transfer market

Former Arizona and Southern California receiver Dorian Singer has transferred to Utah, the school announced Monday.

Singer had a breakout season in 2022 in his second season at Arizona when he had 66 receptions for 1,105 yards and six touchdowns.

Singer then transferred to USC and had just 24 receptions for 289 yards and three scores last season.

Overall, Singer has 108 receptions for 1,695 yards and nine touchdowns in three college seasons.

Utah needed help at receiver after top target Devaughn Vele declared for the NFL draft.

–Field Level Media

Dec 23, 2023; Las Vagas, NV, USA; Utah Utes linebacker Karene Reid (21) warms up before a game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern edges Utah in Las Vegas Bowl

Ben Bryant passed for 222 yards and two touchdowns and Jaheem Joseph hauled in two interceptions to help Northwestern edge Utah 14-7 on Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Bryant connected with Bryce Kirtz for a go-ahead 19-yard touchdown pass with 6:19 remaining. The Wildcats forced the Utes into a turnover on downs at the Northwestern 38-yard line on the ensuing possession and ran out the clock to seal the victory.

One season after finishing 1-8, the Wildcats completed a remarkable turnaround, finishing 8-5 and capturing the program’s fifth successive bowl victory just a few months removed from a preseason hazing scandal.

The turmoil cost longtime coach Pat Fitzgerald his job, but the Wildcats’ resiliency allowed replacement David Braun to take the reins of the program after starting the fall with the “interim” tag.

The Utes (8-5) have lost five straight bowls, including two against Northwestern. Utah punted seven times, threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and had two turnovers on downs.

Utah quarterback Bryson Barnes was 8-for-13 for 55 yards and threw two interceptions. Ja’Quinden Jackson ran eight times for 55 yards, while Micah Bernard rushed for a 6-yard touchdown to tie the score with 12:38 left.

Northwestern outgained Utah 290-211.

Five of the Utes’ seven first-half possessions resulted in punts, with the other two ending with Barnes throwing an interception. After losing 21 yards on its first two series, Utah appeared to be stringing momentum together on the team’s third drive, marching eight plays and 55 yards before an interception.

Barnes threw another interception to Joseph on the ensuing Utah possession, and Joseph returned the ball 45 yards to the Utah 7. The Utes held strong, however, forcing a turnover on downs when Bryant threw incomplete for Charlie Mangieri on fourth-and-goal from the Utah 1 with 9:13 remaining in the second quarter.

The teams traded punts before the Wildcats secured the game’s first score. A 12-yard touchdown pass from Bryant to Johnson capped an eight-play, 78-yard drive with 1:20 remaining before halftime.

Utah quickly went three and out again, but the Wildcats were unable to capitalize as kicker Jack Olsen missed a 40-yard field-goal attempt as time expired in the second quarter. Olsen missed from 51 yards on Northwestern’s second possession of the game.

–Field Level Media

Nov 11, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Bryson Barnes (16) during warmups prior to the game against the Washington Huskies at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Utah meets resilient Northwestern in Las Vegas Bowl

Quarterback Bryson Barnes is set to start for Utah in Saturday’s Las Vegas Bowl against Northwestern in what the program already knows will be his swan song.

Barnes announced recently he is entering the NCAA transfer portal, joining receiver Mikey Matthews and fellow QB Nate Johnson, among others.

The Utes (8-4) and Wildcats (7-5) figure to look markedly different in this postseason matchup than if they had played at any time before late November. For players, however, it’s all part of the routine.

“It’s been kind of fun, honestly, seeing people (follow) the next-man-up mentality,” Utah tight end Landen King said. “But we’ve been like that the whole season, so it’s nothing different.”

In addition to contending with players in the transfer portal, the Utes have multiple key contributors who stated their intent to enter the NFL Draft, including defensive back Cole Bishop, two-way star Sione Vaki and offensive lineman Keaton Bills.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham knows his situation is not unique.

“I’m sure every team in the country is having similar issues. … You’re just going to be (in) a different situation for your bowl game,” he said.

Boy, can Northwestern attest.

After losing 17-9 at Nebraska on Oct. 21 to fall to 3-4, the Wildcats closed the regular season with victories in four of their last five games to cap a resilient run to bowl eligibility.

A preseason hazing scandal that led to the firing of longtime coach Pat Fitzgerald seemingly left the program in disarray, to say nothing of embarrassed. But Northwestern rallied under coach David Braun, whose resurgence allowed him to shed the “interim” from his title, rolling to a six-win improvement from last season.

That’s the biggest leap among Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country.

“A lesser-character team could have packed it up and said, ‘You know what? The season’s not ours.’ They could’ve found all sorts of excuses and explanations for why we’re not going to have the season we want,” Braun said. “That’s what has exceeded my expectations, is the way this group has continued to respond through adversity.”

Transfer quarterback Ben Bryant, who missed four games due to injury, has steered the offense, passing for 1,585 yards and 11 touchdowns against six interceptions.

Braun has lauded the character of Bryant while stressing the importance of valuing and emphasizing relationships with his players throughout the season.

“The thing I’ve learned about myself is I feel like I have a unique ability to laser in on what really matters and what’s important, and focus my decision-making on those things,” he said. “And at the end of the day, that’s our student-athletes. Every decision that I’ve made, I’ve tried to put them at the forefront of my thought process.”

The Wildcats enter on a four-game bowl winning streak, while Utah has lost four straight, including 31-20 to Northwestern in the 2018 Holiday Bowl.

Running the ball and stopping the run have proven keys for the Utes, who have rushed for an average of 199.8 yards per game over the past six contests.

Meanwhile, the Utes rank fourth nationally in rushing defense (84.3 yards per game) and 17th in total defense (308.6).

–Field Level Media

Nov 18, 2023; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (middle) on the field during warms ups with quarterback Bryson Barnes (16), quarterback Nate Johnson (13) and quarterback Luke Bottari (15) at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Stuck behind 7th-year QB Cam Rising, Utah QBs hit portal

Utah quarterbacks Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson are entering the transfer portal with the planned return of Cameron Rising for his seventh college season in 2024.

Barnes has two years of eligibility remaining and started his college career as a walk-on. Barnes started nine games in 2023 with Rising recovering from multiple torn knee ligaments.

Barnes posted a 6-3 record in 2023 with 1,517 passing yards, 12 touchdown passes with nine interceptions. He added three rushing touchdowns.

A coveted recruit who ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at Elite 11 QB Camp as a high school junior, Johnson picked Utah over Michigan in 2021.

He has three years of eligibility left and had 499 passing yards and 235 rushing yards in 2023.

Head coach Kyle Whittinham was informed of Johnson’s decision in November after Rising decided he would play at Utah for another season. Rising turns 25 in May 2024.

“We appreciate what he did for our program while he was here and he’s a fine young man and wish him nothing but the best,” Whittingham said of Johnson.

Utah is scheduled to face Northwestern in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 23.

A two-time Pac-12 champion, Rising suffered a torn ACL in his knee against Penn State in the Rose Bowl in January 2023. At one point, while expected to potentially make a debut in 2023, Rising later revealed that he also tore an MCL and damaged two other ligaments, necessitating a longer recovery.

Rising had 46 total TD passes and threw for more than 5,500 yards in leading Utah to identical 10-4 records in 2021 and 2022.

–Field Level Media

Nov 25, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Colorado Buffaloes athlete Travis Hunter (12) dives for a catch in the end zone in front of Utah Utes cornerback Zemaiah Vaughn (5) at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports

Fifth-string QB Luke Bottari leads Utah over Colorado

Luke Bottari, a senior walk-on who began the season fifth on the quarterback depth chart, rushed for two touchdowns to spark Utah to a 23-17 victory over Colorado on Saturday afternoon in Salt Lake City.

Jaylon Glover rushed for 107 yards on 17 carries and former Colorado kicker Cole Becker booted three field goals as the Utes (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12) won after back-to-back losses.

Ryan Staub started at QB for Colorado (4-8, 1-8), throwing for 195 yards and a touchdown on 17-for-24 passing in the Buffaloes’ sixth consecutive defeat.

Colorado only mustered 262 yards in the final game of a season that started out with great promise in Deion Sanders’ first season as head coach.

While Bottari completed 6 of 10 passes for 61 yards, the Utes rushing attack and defense chipped in. Utah rushed for 268 yards and made several key first downs on a late drive to clinch the win after the Buffaloes pulled within a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.

It was the final Pac-12 game for the two programs who will join the Big 12 next season.

Both teams had to rely on backup quarterbacks, with Utah’s Bryson Barnes and Colorado’s Shedeur Saunders being sidelined due to health issues.

Staub connected with Travis Hunter for an 18-yard scoring strike with 7:31 remaining to keep the Buffaloes within striking distance.

Bottari and the Utes retained possession for the rest of the time on a 12-play, 44-yard drive, which included a fourth-down conversion.

The Utes made a big defensive play to start the game as Connor O’Toole sacked Staub and forced a fumble, which Van Fillinger recovered.

Moments later, Bottari scored his first college touchdown on a 2-yard QB keeper for a 7-0 lead.

Becker then drilled a 34-yard field goal to extend Utah’s lead to 10-0 early in the second quarter.

Three minutes later, Colorado cut the lead to 10-7 when Jimmy Horn Jr. took a backwards pass and tossed it to Dylan Edwards for a 30-yard touchdown reception on a trick play.

After the teams exchanged field goals, Bottari scored another rushing TD from 1 yard out for a 20-10 Utah lead midway through the third. Becker’s third field goal put the Utes up by 13 with 11:31 to play in the game.

–Field Level Media

Nov 11, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham during the first half against the Washington Huskies at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Utah banged up, Colorado in free fall entering finale

Season-ending injuries to numerous key players have forced Utah to dig deep into the depth chart as the regular season winds down.

The Utes (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) are thin at several positions going into their conference finale against Colorado in Salt Lake City on Saturday. Utah lost top defensive end Jonah Elliss to a season-ending injury before last week’s 42-18 loss to Arizona.

Karene Reid, a starting linebacker, and starting safety Cole Bishop were also out against the Wildcats. Both are questionable against the Buffaloes.

Without three key defensive leaders, Utah sputtered against Arizona. The Utes fell behind 28-0 after the first play of the second quarter and saw a six-game winning streak in the series end.

“We’ve got to accept the fact that they outplayed us, outcoached us and that’s that,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.

Nothing except bragging rights will be at stake between the two Rocky Mountain rivals. The Utes are assured a bowl game and Colorado will be spending the postseason at home after failing to qualify for a bowl.

The Buffaloes (4-7, 1-7) unraveled after a 3-0 start. Their struggles reached a new low in a 56-14 loss to Washington State last week. The Cougars scored touchdowns off a pair of fumble returns and a kickoff return to blow the game open.

Five of Colorado’s previous six games had been decided by seven points or less. That wasn’t in the cards against Washington State after Shedeur Sanders was knocked out with an early injury. Sanders, who was sacked four times by the Cougars, has been sacked 52 times this season.

“You give up two fumble returns for touchdowns and a kickoff return for a touchdown, that’s not the recipe for a win,” Colorado coach Deion Sanders said.
“They executed early and executed often, and when they got Shedeur out of the game, it was tough sledding from then on.”

Utah has won six straight games against Colorado and leads the rivalry series 34-32-3.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cam Rising reacts against the Southern California Trojans at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

QB Cam Rising returning to Utah in 2024

Utah quarterback Cam Rising, who missed the 2023 season for the Utes due to a knee injury, announced on social media that he will return for the 2024 season.

A two-time Pac-12 champion as the Utes’ signal-caller, Rising suffered a torn ACL in his knee against Penn State in the Rose Bowl in January.

At one point expected to potentially make a debut in 2023, Rising later revealed that he also tore an MCL and damaged two other ligaments, necessitating a longer recovery.

Rising threw for a combined 46 touchdowns and more than 5,000 yards in leading Utah to identical 10-4 records in 2021 and 2022.

The Utes (7-4) have struggled on offense without Rising this fall, ranking 12th in the Pac-12 in passing offense and 10th in scoring.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats running back Michael Wiley #6 celebrates a touchdown with tight end Tanner McLachlan #84 during the second half at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Pending Big 12 bedfellows No. 17 Arizona, No. 22 Utah push for win No. 8

No. 17 Arizona has been one of the most surprising teams in the country and will be going for its fifth consecutive victory when it plays its home finale against No. 22 Utah on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.

The Wildcats (7-3, 5-2 Pac-12) still have an outside shot at playing in the Pac-12 championship game, but that involves beating the Utes (7-3, 4-3) and Arizona State to end the regular season.

Oregon, in turn, must lose one of its final two games to create a tie-breaking scenario behind league-leading Washington.

“Our only focus is beating Utah,” Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said. “This is a great team coming in.”

Arizona hasn’t won five consecutive games since starting the 2014 season with a 5-0 record.

Utah has navigated through myriad injuries all season, going 3-3 in its past six games, with each of the losses to ranked teams – at Oregon State, vs. Oregon and, last week, at Washington 35-28.

The Utes responded with resounding victories — 34-14 over Cal and 55-3 at Arizona State — the first game after their previous two losses.

“You’ve got to rebound; you’ve got to respond,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Our team has been good at that this year, at least the first couple times. We’ve got to do the same thing this time around. …

“We lean on the leadership of the team a lot and we lean on the coaches to set the tempo, set the mindset and move forward.”

Utah has won five in a row in the series. That includes the 45-20 decision last season in Salt Lake City.

The Utes were the more physical team in recent years and remain strong on both lines, ranking 30th nationally in rushing (184.9 yards per game) and fifth in rushing defense (85.6 yards allowed per game).

Defensive end Jonah Ellis is having an All-American season, with 12 sacks among his 16 tackles for loss.

The game should feature strong matchups in the trenches. Arizona has a potential 2024 first-round left tackle in Jordan Morgan, who is helping running back Jonah Coleman average 7.15 yards per carry. The Wildcats’ defense is 13th nationally against the run, yielding 99.4 yards per game.

But most of the buzz around Arizona is on redshirt freshman quarterback Noah Fifita, who has started the past six games. For the season, he is 165 of 224 for 1,735 yards, with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Fifita struggled some in the first half against Colorado last week but led a second-half comeback as Arizona won 34-31 on a last-play field goal.

“He never flinched,” Fisch said. “What Noah was able to do is what good quarterbacks do. It’s one play at a time, one play at a time.”

Utah running back Ja’Quinden Jackson has rushed for 627 yards on 122 carries and has three 100-yard games this season. Bryson Barnes has settled in at quarterback, completing 103 of 176 passes for 1,197 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The final matchup between these programs as Pac-12 schools was considered a betting pick-em early in the week. Both teams will be joining the Big 12 next season.

–Field Level Media

Nov 4, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Washington Huskies running back Dillon Johnson (7), Washington Huskies offensive lineman Nate Kalepo (71) and other teammates celebrate against the USC Trojans during the second quarter at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Hui-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 Washington, No. 18 Utah ready for key Pac-12 matchup

It was supposed to have been a showdown between the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Southern California’s Caleb Williams, and this year’s favorite, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr.

Until Dillon Johnson stole the show.

Johnson rushed for 256 yards — the same number that Penix threw for — and four touchdowns as the Huskies won 52-42 last week in Los Angeles.

That will give No. 18 Utah (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12) one more thing to worry about when it travels to Seattle to meet No. 5 Washington (9-0, 6-0) on Saturday afternoon in a key Pacific-12 Conference game.

Penix threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another vs. the Trojans, but it was Johnson who made the difference and earned the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Week award.

“It takes the heat off of Mike,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said of Johnson’s big game. “It allows other guys to get touches. DJ had a hot hand, and he was doing what we thought he could do when he came into our program, when we saw the film from a year ago (at Mississippi State).

“It’s just fun seeing the work he’s put in to get himself in the condition and the speed he’s at now, the physicality he’s playing with. We needed every bit of it. So I’m proud of him, proud of the offensive line, too.”

Johnson has come up big in the Huskies’ most important games of the season. He had what was then a career-high 100 yards and a touchdown on Oct. 14 in a 36-33 victory against visiting Oregon.

Against USC, Johnson had 129 of his yards before contact, according to Pro Football Focus.

“The O-line did a great job of making holes for me, so my day was really kind of easy,” Johnson said. “I just hit whatever hole was open.”

It will most likely be tougher going against a Utah defense that is ranked first in the Pac-12 in both points allowed (15.9) and yards allowed (282.3) per game.

After taking a 35-6 loss to then-No. 8 Oregon at home two weeks ago, the Utes bounced back with a 55-3 blowout of Arizona State.

Bryson Barnes threw a career-high four touchdown passes and Ja’Quinden Jackson ran 13 times for 111 yards and a touchdown for the Utes.

“You don’t want to let a team beat you twice,” said Barnes, referring to any potential letdown after the Oregon game. “We had to regain our energy and get over that loss, no matter how bad it was.”

Utah held the Sun Devils to just 83 total yards — 43 rushing and 40 passing. Arizona State converted just 1 of 15 third-down attempts.

“When the defense is clicking and in sync and not on our heels like we were (against the Ducks), we’re really good,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “The front seven was outstanding. Back end was good, too … We just played a complete game at all three levels.”

The Utes won’t shy away from a national television audience for the Saturday game. They’re 4-1 in those appearances this season.

“Anytime you can get national exposure and build your brand … our recruits have certainly taken note of that and are excited about the exposure we’ve gotten,” Whittingham said. “Now, it’s a two-edged sword. You got to be on national TV and play well, you don’t want to go ahead and just underperform every week. But we’ve performed pretty darn good this year in most weeks, and that has caught the attention of our recruits and that’s been a plus.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 4, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Jacob Conover (15) has pass deflected by Utah Utes defensive end Jonah Elliss (83) in the second quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

No. 18 Utah steamrolls Arizona State, 55-3

Bryson Barnes completed a career-best four touchdown passes and Ja’Quinden Jackson rushed 13 times for 111 yards and a touchdown in No. 18 Utah’s 55-3 victory Saturday over Arizona State in Pac-12 play at Salt Lake City.

The 52-point victory is Utah’s largest in the Pac-12 since it joined the conference in 2011.

Barnes was 19 of 28 for 161 yards without an interception.

Jackson did not play most of the second half after suffering a leg injury.

Utah (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12) limited Arizona State (2-7, 1-5) to 83 yards of total offense while the Utes compiled 513.

The Sun Devils were relegated to their fourth-string quarterback, Jacob Conover, after starter Trenton Bourguet was forced to leave the game in the second half with a left ankle injury.

Arizona State also used running back Cameron Skattebo in the Wildcat formation often after halftime.

Bourguet was injured during the first drive of the game when he took a hit as he threw the ball.

Conover replaced him and his first six passes fell incomplete before Bourguet returned.

Bourguet played a series and then was kept out the rest of the game to avoid further injury.

Conover was 5 of 22 for 41 yards with an interception.

True freshman Jaden Rashada, deemed the starter out of fall camp, has been out since the second week of the season due an undisclosed injury. His backup Drew Pyne is also out because of a leg injury.

Utah, which had its 18-game home winning streak snapped last week by Oregon, scored touchdowns on its first two possessions of the game.

Barnes completed passes to Devaughn Vele of 11 and 3 yards to culminate each possession.

A 20-yard touchdown pass from Barnes to Munir McClain with 54 seconds left in the second quarter put Utah ahead 24-3 at halftime.

An interception thrown by Conover with 6:03 left in the third quarter led to Cole Becker’s second field goal of the game, a 43-yarder, to give Utah a 34-3 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Barnes completed his fourth touchdown pass, a 2-yard strike to Landen King, Nate Johnson scored on a 59-yard run and Charlie Vincent had a 22-yard scoring run.

–Field Level Media