SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The last time Utah made the trip to Pasadena, they played one of the greatest Rose Bowl games ever, a 48-45 loss to Ohio State.
Saturday’s trip to Pasadena won’t be quite as important, but it’s very big as the #11 Utes battle undefeated UCLA in one of the marquee games of the week in all of college football.
“It probably won’t be the same atmosphere, but just being back there is definitely going to be nostalgic,” said Utah wide receiver DeVaughn Vele. “I’m looking forward to it, and it’s definitely going to be a great game.”
“It’ll be fun,” said quarterback Cam Rising, who will have plenty of family and friends at the game. “It’s a good spot to play, and I’m just looking forward to get back down to Pasadena and having some fun.”
Since their season-opening loss to Florida, the Utes have gotten a little better each week. Utah may have played its most complete game Saturday in a 42-16 win over Oregon State, the Utes fourth straight victory.
“I think we’ve gotten better each week since week one,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “And if you want to try to win a championship, that’s got to happen. You’ve got to be on that upward trajectory from Game 1 to Game 12.”
The Utes do want to improve their running game. Utah’s top four running backs, Tavion Thomas, Micah Bernard, Jaylon Glover and Ja’Quendin Jackson combined for just 55 yards on 22 carries against the Beavers. But it sounds like Thomas is working his way out of Kyle Whittingham’s doghouse.
“So far, he’s been on track,” Whittingham said about Thomas, who missed the first half of the Arizona State game for what appears to be disciplinary reasons. “Barring any setbacks this week, you should see him more and more as the weeks go on. Again, barring setbacks. He’s got to be consistent and he’s got to be accountable.”
“There’s no excuses,” said offensive lineman Keaton Bills. “We’ve got to figure out what’s going on. We’ve got to come out and play a little bit better. On the other hand, other teams know that’s our legacy is to run the ball down their throats. So I think teams are game planning us, but that’s no excuse. We’ve got to come out and do a little better.”
UCLA is 5-0 for the first time in nine years. Utah has beaten the Bruins five straight times, but quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is always dangerous.
“You can see him getting better and better,” Whittingham said. “He’s playing his best football right now, from my vantage point. Not that he wasn’t good before, but he’s taken his game to another level.”
Utah (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) and UCLA (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) will square off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Rose Bowl.