No. 11 Utah did what three previous opponents had failed to do against No. 22 UCLA’s Dante Moore.
The Utes made the quarterback look like a true freshman. At least for three quarters.
More generally, the Utes defeated their Pac-12 foe at home in a 14-7 win on Saturday to open conference play and improve their record to 4-0. Utah quarterback Nate Johnson, still filling in for injured starter Cam Rising, finished 9-of-17 for 111 passing yards and a touchdown.
The tone was set quickly against the Bruins and Moore, a Rivals top 5 recruit who went 32-for-51 for 615 passing yards, seven touchdowns and one interception in his first three games against North Carolina Central, San Diego State and Coastal Carolina. Here’s how every Moore pass dropback ended in UCLA’s first three drives:
UCLA improved from there — it was hard not to — and finally found life in the fourth quarter on a nine-play, 91-yard drive in which Moore posted 98 of his 234 passing yards. A 17-yard touchdown pass to Josiah Norwood ended the shutout for Utah, but that was all the Bruins would get.
UCLA actually ended up outgaining Utah on the day, but a 3-of-16 day on third down and 1-of-4 on fourth down is more reflective of the experience. Moore finished 15-of-35 for 234 yards, a touchdown, an interception and -51 rushing yards (he was sacked seven times).
At the very least, its not like that was the worst day a Pac-12 upstart had on the road against a more established conference opponent.
Utah got on the board with that pick-six, then recorded its lone offensive touchdown with a nine-play, 51-yard drive that ended with a seven-yard pass from Johnson to Landen King.
Neither team has an easy road ahead of it after Saturday thanks to a highly competitive Pac-12. Utah will face three top-15 opponents in four games with No. 14 Oregon State, California, No. 5 USC and No. 10 Oregon on the docket, plus a trip to No. 8 Washington two weeks later.
Meanwhile, UCLA gets No. 21 Washington State and Oregon State in a back-to-back against teams that have a very large bone to pick with the Bruins. The Pac-12 is delivering some great games so far in the final season as we know it.