TUCSON, Ariz. (ABC4 Sports) – The Utes are now one win away from returning to the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Zack Moss ran for a season-high 203 yards and No. 7 Utah rolled to a 35-7 victory over Arizona on Saturday night.
“I’m proud of our guys,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “We came down here needing to get a win and that’s exactly what we did.”
The Utes (10-1, 7-1 Pac-12, No. 7 CFP) have won seven straight games and are the lone Pac-12 team in serious contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff after No. 6 Oregon lost to Arizona State 31-28 earlier on Saturday.
Since losing to USC in September, Utah has outscored its opponents 263-61.
“This is what we’ve been doing all year,” Moss said. “We wanted to come out and dominate [in the second half]. We felt like they were hanging around a little too much. So we wanted to come out and put some points up and that’s what we did.”
Utah’s defense was dominant once again, holding an opponent to seven points or fewer for the fifth time in six games. Arizona managed just 196 total yards and a big chunk of those came in the fourth quarter when mostly backups were playing.
“It all starts with the run defense,” Whittingham said. “When you can turn a team into being one dimensional, it’s a lot easier.”
With the possibility of Utah making the College Football Playoffs if they win out, what kind of statement did the Utes make Saturday?
“That we’re here,” defensive back Julian Blackmon told ESPN. “And I hope you’re ready because if we get to the playoffs, we’re gonna beat somebody’s brains in. That’s it.”
“We’ve just got to continue to win out, and that will take care of itself,” said quarterback Tyler Huntley.
“As we continue winning games and dominating, we believe the committee is just going to make its decision,” said linebacker Francis Bernard. “We’ll just leave it at that. We can’t do anything but continue to win.”
Defensive end Bradlee Anae had one sacks, and is now just two sacks away from passing Hunter Dimick and becoming Utah’s all-time sack leader.
Huntley completed 19 of 23 passes for 211 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The 5-foot-10, 222-pound Moss barreled through the Arizona defense all night, averaging 7.8 yards per carry.
“Tyler was nearly flawless,” Whittingham said. “I’m excited where we’re at. We’re sitting here at 10-1 with one regular season game left, so we’ll see what happens.”
Moss’ 203 yards against the Wildcats gives him 1,158 yards this season, making him the first player in program history to have three, 1,000-yard rushing seasons in a career. His rushing touchdown today also gives him 14 rushing scores this year, one shy of tying the school record for single-season rushing touchdowns.
Tight end Brant Kuithe ran for two touchdowns on two carries. He had just one carry all season before Saturday.
The Utes dominated the first half, gaining 291 total yards to Arizona’s 56. They scored on Kuithe’s 3-yard touchdown and Huntley’s 3-yard pass to Demari Simpkins to take a 14-0 lead by halftime.
Utah had a great chance to score a third touchdown just before halftime but was stopped at the 1-yard line as time expired. The defensive stand gave the Wildcats a little momentum heading into the second half until Moss ran for a 41-yard touchdown on the opening drive to leave little doubt about the outcome.
Utah scored its final touchdown of the game with 12:47 left to play in the fourth quarter with the drive starting on the Arizona 18-yard line thanks to a 39-yard punt return by Simpkins. The Utes four-play, 18-yard scoring drive ended with an exclamation point by TJ Green as he got his first carry of the game, running it in one-yard for his first touchdown of the season and of his career.
Arizona (4-7, 2-6) has lost six straight. J.J. Taylor ran for 33 yards on 10 carries.
Utah wraps up the regular season at home next Saturday against Colorado.