Utah Football Goes Into Bag Of Tricks To Take First-Half Lead Over Cal
Oct 14, 2023, 2:35 PM
(Photo by Chris Gardner/ Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY – Just before halftime, Sione Vaki lined up under center and pushed forward to get six and a lead for the Utah Utes.
Vaki, a safety for the Utes, recorded his first career touchdown against the Golden Bears.
Sione Vaki makes sure the Utes head into the locker room on top. 💪 pic.twitter.com/ufyClWet54
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) October 14, 2023
With injuries running rampant in the locker room, the Utes had to get creative. With running backs Micah Bernard and Chris Curry out for the season, Utah turned to Vaki.
Vaki had one rushing attempt against Oregon State and was used even more in the first half against Cal.
He posted 66 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries in the first two quarters.
— Utah Athletics (@utahathletics) October 14, 2023
Utah led Cal at the break, 14-7.
Three Storylines For Cal Vs. Utah Football
- Cam Rising. This storyline took an interesting turn over the BYE week with Cam and his doctor opening up more about what has been going on with his injury and recovery. Earlier in the week we ran an interesting article on the topic penned by former Ute and sports personality Sean O’Connell that is worth the read if you haven’t already. Needless to say, despite best efforts to get back out onto the field of play, patience will be needed for Rising’s return moving forward.
- Injuries. At this point, do you laugh or cry about this as a Ute fan? It feels like the number of guys going down versus the amount coming back has reached comical proportions for this team despite on paper looking like a solid crew. Head coach Kyle Whittingham announced earlier in the week that running back Chris Curry suffered a second season-ending injury. Who comes back from the BYE week break? Will they be impactful returns that help (particularly) the offense find a groove? Can Utah get through this game without adding to the injury list?
- Utah’s Defense Faces Another Freshman QB. Cal will be rolling with freshman quarterback Fernando Mendoza on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Utah’s defense has a long history of feasting on up-and-coming freshmen quarterbacks when they come to SLC- just ask UCLA’s signal caller Dante Moore. Still, Mendoza has already put up a pretty good fight against a good Oregon State defense last weekend going 21-32 for 207 yards two touchdowns and one interception.
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Two Questions Heading Into Utah Vs. UCLA
- Who Will Be Available? Utah needs some bodies back ASAP without reinjuring or injuring a new player that has been fine up to this point. Can the Utes get a Mycah Pittman back this week? Cole Becker? Ja’Quinden Jackson? Munir McClain? Etc. Etc. Etc. Any or all of those guys plus the others not listed could really help bolster what the Utes are trying to do here. They sit at 4-1. All is not lost, but they desperately need to get some of their talent back to keep pushing forward.
- Did Utah Have Enough Time To Get Their Offense On Track? The answer to this question is very reliant on the first question. I do not believe Utah’s offense needs to put up 35-40 points to win this game as long as the defense and special teams keep doing what they are doing. They just need to be more efficient, run the clock/play keep away, and collect points when they run out of real estate. I don’t need to tell you any of this, but Utah did none of those things against Oregon State in their first loss of the season. They barely did it in their win against UCLA the week before that. Quarterback Nate Johnson knows he has work he needs to continue to do to get better, but the coaching staff and the players around him need to take some things off his plate as well.
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Chandler Holt is a co-host for the Jazz Notes podcast and a Digital Sports Producer for KSLSports.com, specializing in all things basketball and football. Follow Chandler on Twitter @ChandlerHoltKSL or on Threads @chandlerho1t.
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