Utah Outlasts Arizona on the Road, 38-29
TUCSON, Ariz. – The University of Utah Football program collected its second straight road win today against the Arizona Wildcats with a 38-29 triumph at Arizona Stadium. The Utes improved to 7-3 overall and 6-1 in Pac-12 play heading into their final two regular season games.
The win officially tied head coach Kyle Whittingham with Ike Armstrong (1925-49) as the all-time winningest coach at Utah, with 141 in his career. Whittingham is now 141-69 as the longest tenured coach in the Pac-12 and second-longest tenured coach in the FBS at the same school.
With three lead changes in the first half and two tied scores, it was evident the game would be a back-and-forth affair.
The Utes finished the game with 468 yards of total offense, their sixth straight game with 450+, which included 294 yards passing and 174 yards on the ground. The balanced game was complemented by the Utes averaging 6.3 yards per play with five offensive touchdowns (3 rush, 2 pass).
For the fifth straight game, the Utes scored on their opening drive with Cameron Rising finding the end zone on an 11-yard rush for a 7-0 Utah lead with 10:05 on the clock in the first quarter. Micah Bernard accounted for 38 yards on the 75-yard drive, which included a 27-yard reception and an 11-yard rush to put the Utes in the red zone. Rising finished the drive with his rushing touchdown after a massive block from Braeden Daniels paved the way to the end zone.
The Wildcats evened things up on their own opening drive a few minutes later, scoring with 7:44 on the clock in the first quarter. Arizona's quarterback was able to break free for a 43-yard rushing touchdown, capping a 65-yard drive to make it 7-7.
For the first time since Utah's game against Arizona State, the Utes would trail in the first half with Arizona scoring its second touchdown of the first quarter with 1:41 on the clock. The Wildcats took the 14-7 lead on a six-yard passing play that wrapped up a 72-yard scoring drive, the last touchdown of the quarter.
The lead for the Wildcats wouldn't last long, as Utah scored just five seconds into the second quarter on the end of another 75-yard drive that was set up by a season-long 29-yard reception by Britain Covey on the first play. It would be the TJ Pledger show the rest of the way, as the junior racked up 34 yards on the drive, which included a 15-yard rushing touchdown to tie things up 14-14.
Arizona had to settle on a field goal with under two minutes to go in the first half, after the Utes stopped them on a third-and-four on the Utah 40-yard line, taking a 17-14 lead on a 57-yarder. It would be Utah's turn to answer again, as they began to march down field with 1:24 to go in the second quarter.
The Utes turned to Brant Kuithe twice during the ensuing drive, starting with a 29-yard reception to the red zone on a first-and-10, putting the Utes in scoring territory. Rising would then find the Utes on a third-and-goal on the Arizona two-yard line with five seconds on the clock, connecting with Kuithe on a tunnel screen for the touchdown to give Utah a 21-17 advantage heading into halftime.
Arizona would get on the scoreboard first in the second half, knocking in a 31-yard field goal to make it a one-point game with 11:33 on the clock. Devin Lloyd would force a third-and-13 after a devastating hit for minus four yards with the next play going incomplete, making the Wildcats attempt their second field goal of the game.
The back-and-forth continued as Utah would have to settle on a field goal of its own with 6:58 to go in the third quarter. A career long 43-yard reception by Pledger would put the Utes in the red zone with Jadon Redding eventually hitting a 30-yard field goal to give Utah a 24-20 lead to end the 63-yard scoring drive.
The tight end connection found its way into the third quarter with 2:57 on the clock when Rising linked up with Dalton Kincaid for a 17-yard over-the-shoulder receiving touchdown. The drive started with a 20-yard catch down the middle by Devaughn Vele followed by key plays by Kuithe and Bernard to get the Utes inside the 20, with Kincaid putting the Utes up 31-20 on his fifth receiving score of the season.
Arizona would go on to score nine unanswered points to start the fourth quarter, starting with a 22-yard field goal with 11:31 on the clock. The Wildcats would follow it up with a blocked punt on Utah's next drive, returning the block for three yards and a touchdown to make it a two-point game.
Utah's final scoring drive of the game was methodical as Rising showed complete control of the offense as the unit moved down field, producing 15 plays that took 8:24 off the clock. The Utes would strike with 2:10 remaining in the game after Utah converted on both a fourth and third down to extend the drive, ending with Pledger's second rushing touchdown of the game (2 yards).
The Wildcats would get possession at their own 25-yard line, but Utah's defense would only allow four yards with Mika Tafua and Junior Tafuna setting up a brick wall on the final three plays of the game for the 38-29 Utah win.
Rising finished the game completing 63-percent of his passes, going 19-of-30 for 294 yards and two touchdowns, adding four carries for 22 yards and a rushing score. Pledger led the Utes with his second straight 100-yard rushing game, recording a season-high 25 carries for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
Kuithe had a team high four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown, while Bernard led the Utes in receiving yards with 60 on three receptions.
On defense, it was a pair of freshmen highlighting the afternoon in Cole Bishop along with Tafuna. Bishop had a game- and career-high 3.0 TFLs, including a nine-yard sack, among his eight total stops which were also a personal best. Tafuna guided the team in the trenches with a team-leading nine tackles (1.5 TFLs) and a sack. Bishop additionally added a pass breakup.
Bishop has amassed 5.0 TFLs and 2.0 sacks on the season, all in the last two games. His 3.0 TFLs at Arizona on Saturday are the most at Utah by a true freshman since 2007 (via Pac-12 and STATS Perform).
The Utes will play their final two regular season games inside Rice-Eccles Stadium, starting with No. 5 Oregon on Saturday, Nov. 20. The game time and TV network will be announced in the coming days.