There was a lot of suspense leading up to the game if Cam Rising was going to play or not after missing the first three games due to his lingering injury sustained last year.
The senior warmed up in pads and full uniform, but when it came time for kickoff, the 6-foot-2 220-pounder dual threat quarterback reappeared in a T-shirt, signaling he wouldn’t be playing and that Nate Johnson would start.
With Rising still not ready to go, Utah’s defense rallied around Johnson and picked up the slack once again to lead the Utes to victory.
Utah’s defense set the tone for the day as Karene Reid returned an interception for a touchdown on UCLA’s first play of the game to help lead the Utes to victory.
On offense, the Utes scored right before the half to go up 14-0. And with the way the Utes defense was playing, that’s all the team needed in a 14-7 home victory over the 22nd ranked Bruins.
Nate Johnson looked sharp early in his second career start, but Utah’s offense went into conservative mode in the second half with all six of Utah’s second-half drives ending in punts.
“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot on some of those drives. We have a lot to clean up,” Johnson said.
Fortunately for Utah, the defense seems capable of fixing any mess. The Utes allowed only one offensive touchdown for the fourth straight week.
Johnson was 9 of 17 for 117 yards as Utah rushed the ball 48 times. Jaylon Glover had 25 carries for 86 yards.
UCLA quarterback Dante Moore was under pressure all game, but was able to find Josiah Norwood for a 17-yard touchdown with just over 3 minutes to play to help the Bruins (3-1, 0-1) avoid a shutout for the first time in 12 years.
After UCLA forced a three-and-out, the Bruins got the ball back and had one last chance to tie the game up with a touchdown, however, Jonah Elliss and the Utes defense had 3 sacks to put the game away.
While I didn’t get the score perfect, the game played out just like I thought it would in my preview.
“If Rising plays, I expect the Utes to win by more than a touchdown. If he doesn’t, I’m expecting the Utah defense to bring even more pressure in order to create more turnovers and set up short fields for Nate Johnson and the Ute offense. UCLA has a talent, but they’ve played a weak schedule so far and Dante Moore, a freshman, hasn’t faced a hostile environment before at the collegiate level. Rice-Eccles is one of the toughest venues in all of college football and where the Utes simply don’t lose. The game will be close, but Utah will find a way to come out on top.”