UCLA football looks to build win streak against Utah in conference opener
Senior wide receiver Logan Loya carries the ball downfield against North Carolina Central. (Brandon Morqeucho/Assistant Photo editor)
No. 11 Utah
Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
Sept. 22, 2023 1:47 p.m.
UCLA’s 2022 victory over Utah stood out as a climactic moment for the program a year ago.
The Bruins entered the contest as the underdog, ranked seven slots below their counterpart, and emerged not only victorious, but boasting a top-10 ranking after the following bye week – tied for their highest of the year.
They would forfeit the winning streak and high rank shortly thereafter, but that week, the Bruins had snapped a five-game losing streak against the Utes.
No. 22 UCLA football (3-0) will travel to Salt Lake City with a chance to continue its winning ways against No. 11 Utah (3-0) Saturday afternoon. The contest will open Pac-12 play for the Bruins as they emerge from nonconference play undefeated.
Redshirt senior offensive lineman Duke Clemens revealed some of the Bruins’ focuses going into their first Pac-12 road game of the season.
“Coach (Chip Kelly) likes to say when you go on the road you got to bring a defense, a run game and special teams,” Clemens said. “So we’re looking to run the ball and hopefully get some success this weekend.”
The reigning Pac-12 champions will enter this week’s matchup with the advantage – much like last season – according to the rankings and the projected spread. However, much uncertainty still looms around Utah’s program.
In addition to questions about the status of quarterback Cameron Rising, a slew of other Utah starters are facing injuries with unclear availabilities.
Kelly said the squad’s focus lies elsewhere from its opponent’s injuries, and it is preparing to face any and all of Utah’s stars come Saturday afternoon.
“The game kind of takes on a life of its own, so we have to be prepared for them, and our guys are working diligently at doing that,” Kelly said. “They’ve always had a great front – they’re tough, they’re physical and really well coached.”
Currently, UCLA’s rushing offense ranks third in the country, and its total offense has found its way into the top 10. On the same lists, Utah is No. 39 in the country in the former and No. 86 in the latter.
However, Utah does fall within the top 10 for rushing defense and has found itself slotted at No. 17 in the nation in total defense. The Bruins are tied for No. 11 in rushing defense and are 24th in total defense.
“We’re going to see how it plays out. We don’t have any preconceived notions going in,” Kelly said. “We know how well coached they are. We know how talented they are on the defensive side of the ball, and then you’ll see how the game expresses itself and what transpires.”
As this could be the last time the Bruins compete in the Utes’ Rice-Eccles Stadium for the indefinite future with both squads’ impending conference moves to the Big Ten and Big 12, respectively, UCLA will have the chance to come out of the all-time series with the last word between the two programs.
Senior wide receiver Logan Loya said he looks forward to competing in the road atmosphere and doing whatever it takes to secure the victory.
“Salt Lake is a hard place to come out with a W, for sure,” Loya said. “It’s loud, everyone talks about the noise, super loud. You can’t hear each other and honestly that excites me – I love the noise.”