By Jon Gold
SALT LAKE CITY –
UCLA football players looked up, stuck out their tongues and let the snowflakes drift down on them, almost looking like they wanted to drop to the ground and make snow angels instead of play a tough Utah team.
It’s not often a bunch of SoCal kids get covered by a blanket of white.
It’s not often they get run over by a blanket of White, either.
But that’s just what Utah running back John White IV did, almost single-handedly providing the offense for the Utes in a 31-6 win over the visiting Bruins on Saturday night in front of 45,039 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
White’s three consecutive touchdowns in the second and third quarters broke open the game, and the shifty bowling ball totaled 167 yards rushing – his fifth 150-plus game of the year – against a reeling UCLA front seven.
“That dude, he’s a hell of a back,” Bruins redshirt freshman safety Tevin McDonald said. “We saw it on film – he would attack the line, and he would just find the hole. I got a chance to see it from there – from where I’m looking at safety, he’s stopped behind the line, and then he squirts out, and it’s a four yard gain.”
Unlike the snow, White did not cease, gaining a flurry of extra yards after contact and continuing long into the night. White had 100 yards in the second half on 19 carries and finished with 33 carries for the game, punishing the Bruins’ interior with an unwillingness to go down on first contact.
Surprisingly, though, his play of the game came through the air.
After a 1-yard touchdown run by White with 5 minutes, 34 seconds left in the first half gave Utah its first lead at 7-3, UCLA was unable to capitalize on a long drive to end the half and senior kicker Tyler Gonzalez missed a 47-yard attempt after the Bruins were set back six yards on a Kevin Prince sack.
Utah received the kickoff to open the second half and quarterback Jon Hays led the offense down the field with his arm, completing back-to-back passes of 16 and 33 yards to move Utah into scoring position. After a sack by UCLA defensive end Iuta Tepa gave Utah a 3rd-and-goal at the UCLA 13-yard line, Hays delivered a beautiful throw to White directly over Bruin linebacker Sean Westgate, staking the Utes a 14-3 lead.
“That dude, man,” Utah wide receiver DeVonte Christopher said, echoing McDonald’s sentiments. “John White, that guy is a hard worker. All his yardage, his touchdowns, it’s all a testament to his work ethic. When you have a guy like John White, who can not only make guys miss but get through those small holes, it opens everything up.”
When White wasn’t punishing the Bruins, they did it to themselves.
UCLA was penalized 12 times for 91 yards, including 10 flags for 76 yards in the first half.
With the Utah defense constantly shifting at the line of scrimmage and screaming to distract the Bruin offensive line, UCLA was on its heels the entire game. The biggest culprits, the Bruins offensive line, including senior offensive tackle Mike Harris, who was called for four false start penalties including one on the very first drive.
“Being in 2nd-and-long, 3rd-and-long – heck, 1st-and-long – it’s not easy,” said junior tight end Joseph Fauria, who had a team-high four catches for 64 yards. “We can’t put ourselves in those kinds of situations. It doesn’t work well with us. I don’t think any team has high percentages in that situation.”
The deficit growing and the penalties mounting, UCLA had to rely on its throwing game, and the Utah defense responded.
Namely, Conroy Black.
The Ute defensive back had two interceptions of Kevin Prince, including a 67-yard touchdown return that put UCLA down 28-6. Prince was rattled by an aggressive pass rush, finishing just 12-of-24 passing for 146 yards and the two interceptions, while being sacked three times.
Worse, after gaining 224 yards rushing in UCLA’s two-game winning streak over Cal and Arizona State, Prince found little room on the perimeter, rushing just 12 times for 10 yards.
“They didn’t give me opportunities to keep the ball very much,” Prince said. “Their ends weren’t crashing, and as much I wanted to pull the ball, I just couldn’t. They played it very well.”
Now back at .500 for the fifth time this season, UCLA must regroup next Saturday at the Rose Bowl against a Colorado squad coming off its biggest win of the year, a 48-29 win over the same Arizona team that beat the Bruins 48-12 in Week 7.
Good thing UCLA is going back home.
The forecast does not call for snow.
“We knew that would be a big thing coming in,” Utah’s Christopher said. “We knew coming from SoCal, these guys are not used to that snow, and that showed. You could tell as the game went on, it started to wear on them. We love this kind of weather. We’re glad it came for this kind of game.”