SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Karene Reid returned an interception for a touchdown and Landen King had a TD catch for No. 11 Utah, which used a stifling defensive performance to beat No. 22 UCLA 14-7, with quarterback Cam Rising still paused Saturday.
There has been speculation all week about whether Rising, who suffered a torn ACL in the Rose Bowl last season, would be ready to return. He practiced every day without limits, warming up in pads and full uniform before reappearing in a T-shirt just before kickoff.
And then a stifling defense won out for the Utes (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12).
After splitting practice reps with Rising, Nate Johnson looked strong early in his second career start, but Utah’s offense was limited in the second half by UCLA’s defense and some conservative playmaking.
Johnson was 9 of 17 for 117 yards as Utah rushed the ball 48 times. Jaylen Glover had 25 carries for 86 yards.
Freshman Dante Moore, under pressure all game, found Josiah Norwood for a 17-yard touchdown with 3:39 to play to help the Bruins (3-1, 0-1) post their first shutout in 12 years avoid.
After forcing a three-pointer, the Bruins had one last chance. But Jonah Elliss came through with two straight sacks, and then Sione Vaki secured the victory with another sack on fourth-and-14 with 1:49 left.
Moore, the highest-ranked quarterback recruit in recent UCLA history, was confident and effective in the Bruins’ first three wins against weaker opponents. Not so against Utah, where Moore was sacked seven times.
On his first pass against Utah, Moore sent a pass to his left. Reid stepped into the passing lane for an interception and ran 21 yards for a touchdown.
Moore, who was 15 of 35 for 234 yards, finally connected on back-to-back pass plays of 17 and 41 yards in the third quarter, but then failed on an option play when he was hit by Lander Barton. Tao Johnson recovered at the Utah 8-yard line.
The Utes haven’t been beaten by a freshman quarterback at Rice-Eccles Stadium since Oregon’s Justin Herbert in 2016.
Kain Medrano forced Utah’s first lost fumble of the year after Johnson ran 11 yards in the first quarter. The Utes ended up fumbling three times.
Just before halftime, Johnson threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to King to make it 14-0.
UCLA: The Bruins somehow had a chance to tie the game on their final drive, but again failed to protect the quarterback. UCLA rushed 32 times for 9 yards and the early pick-6 played a big role throughout the game as the Bruins shut down Utah’s one-dimensional offense.
Utah: The Utes missed Rising big time as the Bruins packed the box against the run. The outcome never seemed in doubt, but Utah needs a more reliable offense. Utah’s biggest problem could be an injury list of 15 regular players – now including primary running back Ja’Quinden Johnson, who left the game in the first half.
UCLA: After a bye, No. 21 hosts Washington State on Oct. 7.
Utah: Visits No. 14 Oregon State on Friday.
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