UCLA-Utah: A look at how the teams match up
UCLA (2-5, 2-2) vs. No. 23 Utah (5-2, 3-2)
Friday, 7:30 p.m., Rose Bowl. TV: ESPN. Radio: 870, 1150 (at conclusion of Clippers game), 97.3.
UCLA tailback Joshua Kelley vs. the Utah run defense. Kelley has topped 100 yards rushing in four consecutive games, including against two of the Pac-12 Conference’s better defenses in Washington and California. This will be another challenge entirely. Utah ranks No. 1 nationally in run defense, giving up 74.6 yards a game. USC managed only 2.9 yards a carry last weekend against the Utes when adjusting for sacks.
UCLA (354 ypg/22.9 ppg): An underappreciated aspect of the Bruins’ revival has been their lack of turnovers. They have committed one in their last two games, coming on a fumble when Wilton Speight was sacked by Arizona. UCLA has also converted 45% of its third downs over its last three games after converting only 30% earlier in the season.
Utah (425.9 ypg/30.3 ppg): The Utes have scored at least 40 points in three consecutive games for the first time since 2010. A big chunk of that success has been the play of quarterback Tyler Huntley, who has completed 77% of his passes for 741 yards and seven touchdowns during wins over Stanford, Arizona and USC. Junior tailback Zack Moss is averaging 107.6 yards rushing per game, tied for second best in the Pac-12.
UCLA (425.4 ypg/31.3 ppg): Bruins coach Chip Kelly said that his team’s giant step backward in run defense against Arizona largely resulted from 18 missed tackles. UCLA gave up a season-worst 289 rushing yards and 7.6 yards a carry. The Bruins also generated only one tackle for loss, though the three turnovers they forced helped offset many of their deficiencies.
Utah (286.4 ypg/17.7 ppg): The Utes aren’t just exceptional in run defense. They lead the Pac-12 in total defense, red zone defense, pass-efficiency defense and opponent third-down conversion rate. They rank second in scoring defense, sacks and tackles for loss.
Helicopters flying over the Bruins’ practice field en route to UCLA Medical Center should be on the lookout for Stefan Flintoft’s soaring punts. The Pac-12’s leading punter boomed one 60 yards in practice this week, showing he’s eager to add to his tally of 16 punts going at least 50 yards this season. … Utah absorbed special teams breakdowns against USC last weekend, including a fumbled punt return recovered by the Trojans.
Utah will wear a helmet decal with a winged foot logo to honor the memory of 21-year-old track standout Lauren McCluskey, who was fatally shot on campus Monday night by her former boyfriend. There will be a moment of silence in the stadium before the game.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson appeared on the verge of being fully recovered during practice Tuesday, the last session reporters were allowed to attend. The true freshman put some zip on his passes only three days after suffering an unspecified upper-body injury against Arizona that knocked him out in the second quarter. But Speight, his replacement in that game, guided the first-team offense Tuesday during the portion of practice open to reporters and could be in line to make his first start since the season opener.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch
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