SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The way this Utah defense is playing, allowing just one touchdown in each of its first four games, this looks like one of the best defensive units the Utes have ever had.
“They’re very comparable so far,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “It’s still early, only four games in. But our defense has been very consistent all four games. We’ve got a lot of really good players, and we’ve got some depth. They completely suffocated UCLA.”
In Utah’s 14-7 win over the Bruins, the Utes had seven sacks and forced two turnovers, including a pick-six by Karene Reid.
“These guys fly around, are aggressive and nasty,” said running back Jaylon Glover. “I wouldn’t want to go against that defense, but I’m glad they’re on my side.”
It’s a good thing too, seeing how poorly the offense is playing. Freshman quarterback Nate Johnson completed just nine passes against the Bruins, and the Utes had just 219 total yards, producing one touchdown.
“We’re just happy at the end of the day being 4-0,” said wide receiver DeVaughn Vele, who has just six catches this season for 108 yards. “There is definitely a lot of soul searching that we’ve got to do right now, especially on the offensive unit. We’ve seen what we can do, and we know what we’re capable of. But the numbers we’ve been putting up is something we can’t be happy about.”
Without starting quarterback Cam Rising, who still hasn’t been cleared after off-season knee surgery, Johnson has struggled leading the offense. But so far, the defense has had the offense’s back. The question is, is this sustainable?
“There is more to it than the quarterback position,” Whittingham said. “Nate didn’t play poorly. His numbers were OK. He did turn the ball over once, but we’ve got to find some ways, plural, to do a better job moving the football.”
“It’s really just timing, protection in the pocket,” Johnson said. “We were lacking that a little bit, but I know it’s going to pick up this week. I still believe our o-line is one of the top o-lines in the country.”
With Ja’Quinden Jackson suffering an ankle injury, it looks like Jaylon Glover, who had 25 carries for 86 yards against UCLA is the lead back now.
“Mentally, just making sure I’m already prepared,” Glover said. “Making sure I’m hitting all the cues, not making mistakes. Whatever I can do to make our offense play better and get the victory, that’s where my mind is.”
One bright spot on the offense was tight end Landen King, the transfer from Auburn, who caught his first pass as a Ute for a touchdown.
“It was really just a whole dream come true,” King said. “For it to come in a game like that with the offense kind of struggling, I’m just happy I got to contribute in a really good way in a really big game for us. We needed that win.”
#10 Utah (4-0) will hit the road next at #19 Oregon State (3-1) Friday night at 7:00 p.m.