Junior Tafuna Forces Turnover By Taking Ball From Oregon RB Bucky Irving

Oct 28, 2023, 3:34 PM


Utah Utes defensive tackle Junior Tafuna (58) and Utah Utes defensive end Logan Fano (0) celebrate a defensive stand against UCLA in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. Utah won 14-7. (Photo Cred: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

(Photo Cred: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Halfway through the first quarter, Utes defensive lineman Junior Tafuna tackled Ducks RB Bucky Irving and took the ball at the same time.

The first half wasn’t ideal for Utah as they trailed Oregon 21-6 going into the break.

The play gave Tafuna the first forced fumble and fumble recovery in his career with Utah.

The Utes capitalized on the turnover by getting on the board with a field goal.

Utah forced Oregon into their second turnover of the year through seven games.

The Ducks offense followed the turnover with back-to-back scoring drives.

Three Storylines For Oregon Vs. Utah Football

  1. Cam Rising. This storyline took its final twist last week after head coach Kyle Whittingham revealed during the USC post-game press conference that Rising, along with Brant Kuithe are shutting it down for the season. It’s a disappointing conclusion but understandable as both players suffered gnarly knee injuries last season that just weren’t able to recover quick enough. Both players potentially could return to the Utes next season, but that is yet to be determined. For the here and now, Rising says he’s dedicated to making sure Bryson Barnes has everything he needs to be successful in his absence. Needless to say, this is now Barnes’ team.
  2. Speaking Of Bryson Barnes… The pig farmer from Milford, Utah received quite a bit of hate earlier in the season for play that wasn’t up to the Utes’ current standards. That has slowly changed over the past two weeks against Cal and USC as the gameplan clearly has been centered around Barnes and not a “what if” scenario with Rising. It’s also worth noting Barnes has done well with the plan centering on what he does well. He was still a tad shaky against Cal, but really seemed to blossom against USC. The Utes are going to need him to take another big step forward this weekend against a very good Ducks defense.
  3. Utah’s Dominant Defense Gets Another Test. Last week this Utah defense was tasked with keeping USC quarterback Caleb Williams and their ridiculously talented receivers in check. Mission accomplished. Utah didn’t allow a single passing touchdown, something that has never happened to Williams. However, they now have to contend with Oregon’s Bo Nix and their stable of running backs. The Ducks currently sit at No. 2 in the country in total offense and No. 1 in the Pac-12. If Utah can slow Nix and the Ducks down, they will have a shot.


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Two Questions Heading Into Oregon Vs. USC

  1. What Trick Will The Utah Offense Have Up Its Sleeve? Utah has recently introduced safety Sione Vaki into their arsenal of offensive tricks and he’s been marvelous against Cal and USC. How does he do against the Ducks? Does Utah have another new thing they will do with him? Will they roll out someone else that will blow our minds? Here is the thing, the Utes don’t need to get terribly cute with it, just do what you’ve been doing, execute, and give them a little something new to think about.
  2. How Does This Utah Team Handle The Big Stage? There are a lot of new faces running the show out of necessity this year for the Utes. How do they handle being front and center of all the hype and build up to this matchup with the Oregon Ducks? Nobody thought after the Oregon State game that the Utes would be here in this situation and yet here we are. Kudos to the coaches and players because nothing about this year has been easy. If they can sink this ship though? Whew boy. Legend status again.


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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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Junior Tafuna Forces Turnover By Taking Ball From Oregon RB Bucky Irving