SALT LAKE CITY – It was a night full of emotion, joy and determination in front of a Rice-Eccles Stadium record 51,922 fans Saturday as the Utah Football team defeated the UCLA Bruins, 44-24. Utah improved to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in Pac-12 play.

Utah produced 469 yards of total offense, the fourth straight game for the Utes to have over 400 yards on offense. The total included a season-high 290 rushing yards with five rushing touchdowns, the most rushing scores by Utah since they beat UCLA in 2016.

UCLA entered the game averaging over 200 yards rushing a game with the Utes holding the Bruins to 146 yards on the ground and 411 total. The Utah defense held the Bruins to just 45 yards rushing in the second half with the Bruins only converting on 1-of-5 third down attempts in the final quarter.

THE GAME
For the third straight game, Utah scored on its opening drive with the Utes marching down field 75 yards for a touchdown with 11:26 to go in the first quarter. The drive faced a third-and-one on the Utah 44-yard line, but a key eight-yard gain from Tavion Thomas kept the drive alive with Thomas finishing it off on a 10-yard rushing touchdown for a 7-0 advantage.

After the quick score by the Utes, UCLA was able to find its way down to the Utah 10-yard line on its opening drive. After big stops by Karene Reid and Junior Tafuna kept them out of the end zone, UCLA had to settle on a 28-yard field goal to make it 7-3 with 3:48 on the clock in the first quarter.

The Utes started their next drive on their own 25-yard line with Rising connecting with Devaughn Vele and Dalton Kincaid for first downs along with a first down on Rising’s own legs to put Utah in the red zone as time expired in the first quarter.

During the first and second quarter breaks, Utah would retire the No. 22, the first number retired in the history of the program, with both Aaron Lowe and Ty Jordan’s families joining the team on the field for the celebration.

Utah would hold the ball on the UCLA eight-yard line on third-and-four to start the second quarter. It would be the first play after the Utes honored their fallen teammates that Thomas would find the end zone once again, bouncing off tackles for an eight-yard rushing touchdown to give the Utes a 13-3 lead.

UCLA found the end zone with 9:06 on the clock in the second quarter, cutting the Utah lead to 14-10 on a 75-yard drive. It wouldn’t take long for the Utes to answer after Rising used his tight ends to his advantage, finding Brant Kuithe for a 24-yard gain on the first play of the drive to get things going, ending with a four-yard pass to Dalton Kincaid for a Utah touchdown and a 21-10 lead.

The Utes would finish the first half with Thomas’ third rushing touchdown of the game after Nephi Sewell came away with his first interception of the season to give Utah the ball on the UCLA 17-yard line. Rising would put the ball in Thomas’ hands two plays later with Thomas punching in a 10-yard rushing score to send Utah into halftime up 28-10.  

To begin the third quarter, both teams traded fourth down stops twice before UCLA was able to score on a six-yard passing touchdown with 4:59 left to play to make it 28-17.

Utah would get the ball back with under five minutes to go in the third quarter with the Utes driving down field on a mission. Thomas would convert a key third-and-two with an 11-yard rush, followed by a diving 17-yard catch from Vele for a first down to end the quarter with the Utes on the UCLA 12-yard line.

Utah would come out of the third quarter break, which featured the Utes’ new tradition of a Moment of Loudness to honor Lowe and Jordan, and immediately score with Rising notching his third rushing touchdown of the season and the Utes’ fourth of the game. The 12-yard scoring play was the Utes’ fourth 75-yard scoring drive of the game, giving them the 35-17 lead with 14:55 left to play in the game.

The Bruins were able to sneak in a nine-yard passing touchdown with 11:04 on the clock in the fourth to cut the Utah lead to 12, but it would be the Utes’ defense and special teams stepping up on the next series.

After Utah’s offense was unable to find the end zone, Rising would punt it away for the second time of the game, booming a 43-yarder to the UCLA six-yard line. The Bruins would take over with 7:16 left in the fourth quarter with Hauati Pututau laying down a devastating blow to the UCLA quarterback in the end zone for a sack and a safety, putting the Utes up 37-24.

With the Utes getting the ball back right away, they would start their final scoring drive of the night on their own 42-yard line with 7:14 on the clock. After big plays from Vele and Thomas positioning Utah on the UCLA 24-yard line, it would be Thomas with a 24-yard rushing touchdown to tie the school record for single-game rushing scores and give Utah a 44-24 lead.

UCLA would have possession of the ball with 4:40 remaining in the game, driving all the way to the Utah 35-yard line. Utah’s defense would end the game with a third down stop from Mika Tafua, followed by a pass breakup from Devin Lloyd on the final play allowing the Utes to kneel the ball on offense for the win.  

GAME LEADERS
The general of the offense commanded his team tonight against the Bruins as Rising finished the game 17-of-27 passing (0 INT, 1 TD) for 179 yards, adding six carries for 63 yards (10.5 ypc) and a rushing touchdown.

Rising’s rushing touchdown was one of just five in the game with the other four coming at the hands of Thomas. The sophomore wrapped up the game with a season-high 24 carries for a career high 160 yards (6.7 ypc) while Kuithe led the team through the air with five receptions and 63 yards.

On defense, Sewell racked up a career high 14 tackles (1.0 TFL) and a pick while Reid added nine stops himself. Brandon McKinney added eight tackles and a pass breakup while Clark Phillips III had seven tackles and a team high two passes defended.

For the special teams unit, Rising was an unexpected surprise, punting twice for the Utes with an average of 39.0 yards per punt. The sophomore quarterback totaled 78 yards on his two punts with both landing inside the 10-yard line.

STANDOUT STAT
The same night that Utah retired the No. 22 in honor of Jordan and Lowe, the number and its significance continued to show up in the stat sheet, in the attendance number and in the hearts of the fans, team and Salt Lake City community.

Thomas was the first Utah player to rush for three or more rushing touchdowns in a game since Jordan’s final game as a Ute against Washington State in 2020. Thomas’ four rushing touchdowns against UCLA tied the school record for single-game rushing scores, becoming the eighth player in Utah history to reach the number.

The Utes scored 44 total points tonight, 22 points exactly when you divide the number by two for Utah’s two teammates that were honored tonight. The final attendance for the night set a new Rice-Eccles Stadium record at 51,922, beating the previous record of 51,724 against Arizona State.

UP NEXT
Utah will hit the road for two straight weeks, starting at Stanford for a Friday night matchup. The Utes and the Cardinal will play on Friday, Nov. 5 in Stanford, Calif. at 8:30 p.m. MT on FS1.