Three Takeaways From Utah’s Win Over California

Oct 27, 2019, 5:19 PM
Utah Utes running back Zack Moss (2) evades the tackle from California Golden Bears cornerback Elij...
Utah Utes running back Zack Moss (2) evades the tackle from California Golden Bears cornerback Elijah Hicks (3) on a run during the game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – There is a lot to takeaway from Utah’s 35-0 shutout win over the California Golden Bears on Saturday night. The Utes’ defense stole the show with a shutout victory.

It’s the first time since joining the conference in 2011 that Utah shutout a Pac-12 opponent. Quarterback Tyler Huntley fought through an injury, while staying productive in the passing attack and  Zack Moss cemented himself as the greatest running back in Utah football history.

Here is the Crimson Corner’s “three-point-stance” from Utah’s win over Cal.

Defense Playing On Different Level

Utah’s defense is playing like one of the best units in all of college football. After pitching a shutout against the Golden Bears, the Utes’ defense is now ranked No. 1 in FBS in rushing defense with 56.4 yards per game allowed and holding their opponents to just 2.5 yards per carry.

They are second in the country in first downs allowed with 101, third in total defense, allowing 231 yards of total offense per game. The 83 total yards of offense allowed to Cal on Saturday is the fifth fewest in school history and fewest since allowing just 59 yards to Weber State in 2018. Cal ran just 43 plays on offense, which is the third fewest allowed by Utah in school history. Cal had four plays in Utah territory, which all came on their first drive, never advancing past Utah’s 41-yard line. After the first possession, the Bears never moved beyond their own 37-yard line.

Utah’s defense has held four opponents this season to fewer than 10 points (0 by Cal and Idaho State, 7 by Oregon State and 3 by Arizona State), which is the most in a season by Utah since they held four opponents to single-digits in 2007.

They have allowed 23 combined points in their last four games (13 by Washington State, 7 by Oregon State, 3 by Arizona State and 0 by Cal). That is the fewest points allowed by Utah in a four game span since 1981. It’s the first time that Utah has held three consecutive Pac-12 opponents to single digits and first time overall since 2007. Also, it is the first time that Utah has posted two shutouts in the same season since 2003.

“Great team effort. All three phases played exceptionally well,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said after the game. “I guess it was our first shutout of a Pac-12 opponent since we joined the league, so I guess it’s about time and nice job by our defense. Outstanding plan by Coach (Morgan) Scalley and his staff. Again, all boils down to the players making plays and executing. We did a great job of that.”

Tyler Huntley A True Competitor

Huntley was a question mark heading into the game against Cal. He suffered a knee injury in the second quarter in their win over Arizona State two weeks ago. The senior returned later on the same drive but had to leave the game after hurting the same knee again in the third quarter. Huntley wanted to start in the game but had a hard time moving around the pocket and stuck to staying in the pocket and throwing the football.

He completed 11 of his 17 pass attempts for 214 yards and one touchdown. He left after the first drive in the third quarter as Utah had the game in hand. Coach Whittingham didn’t know until after pregame warmups that Huntley was going to play.

“He was pretty dicey all week long, he didn’t practice much early in the week,” Whittingham stated. “As the week progressed, he practiced a little more, but you can see he still wasn’t 100-percent. But he wanted to go, and I thought he did a great job of scheming things to help him with his lack of his mobility to take some of the ‘need to move around’ off of him. He played a solid first half and we figured if we got out of that first drive opening the second half that we’d make a change. If something would’ve gone wrong, and they would’ve scored you probably would’ve seen him for a couple series at least.”

Zack Moss Still Has More Records To Break

In the last two weeks, Moss has taken over three rushing records in Utah football history. Against Arizona State two weeks ago, he passed Eddie Johnson as the all-time leader in career rushing yards. In the win over Cal, Moss passed Del Rodgers for the all-time career rushing touchdowns leader and also rushed for over 100-yards in his 15th career game, passing both Devontae Booker and John White for the school record.

He also passed Juan Johnson (1994-97) for second in school history in career rushing attempts. Moss has 587 attempts in his career and is 61 behind all-time leader Tony Lindsay.

The final record that is hanging in front of Moss is the total touchdowns record. Moss has 33 rushing and one receiving touchdown in his career and needs just two more touchdowns to pass Eddie Johnson, who has 35 total touchdowns.

Unless something unexpected happens to Moss, he should break both of the records.

Whittingham was asked if he has ever been surprised by Moss’ performances, watching from the sideline.

“A lot of times. Yeah, a lot of times. He’s a special back,” said Whittingham. “That’s awesome for Zack. He’s a special back and he’s got the whole package. I mean he’s got a great skill set and we’re fortunate to have him, fortunate he came back for his senior year.”

Utah will travel to Seattle to battle with the Washington Huskies on Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will be televised on FOX.

The Crimson Corner podcast is the one-stop for all things University of Utah Athletics hosted by Utah insider Trevor Allen. Ute fans will find interviews with current players, coaches and staff alongside expert analysis of every game, story and angle coming out of the University of Utah.

You can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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