Despite fourth-quarter comeback attempt, UCLA football falls 14-7 to Utah
Members of No. 22 UCLA football walk off the field following their 14-7 loss to No. 11 Utah. (Megan Cai/Daily Bruin senior staff)
|No. 22 UCLA||7|
|No. 11 Utah||14|
Sept. 23, 2023 4:44 p.m.
This post was updated Sept. 27 at 8:59 p.m.
SALT LAKE CITY — Dante Moore fired a 45-yard strike to sophomore tight end Carsen Ryan on fourth-and-7 from his own 22-yard line.
Three plays later, the freshman quarterback completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to redshirt senior wide receiver Josiah Norwood – who had narrowly missed a touchdown reception in the first quarter.
But it was too little, too late.
After trailing by two scores for 3 1/2 quarters, No. 22 UCLA football (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) couldn’t complete the comeback effort against No. 11 Utah (4-0, 1-0), falling 14-7 for its sixth loss in seven tries against the Utes and fourth consecutive defeat at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“Rice-Eccles and Utah, their defense, everything they have – I’d say it’s a tough place to play,” said coach Chip Kelly. “But that’s what you want. You want to play games like this.”
In its penultimate series of the game, UCLA drove 91 net yards in nine plays to cut the Utah lead in half. Moore completed five consecutive passes, starting with a third-and-27 completion to senior wide receiver Logan Loya from the 2-yard line before ending with Norwood’s touchdown.
Kelly said the second-to-last drive showed what the team lacked during the rest of the matchup.
“I think we threw and caught the ball, and we protected him (Moore) well in those situations and gave him some time,” Kelly said. “But that’s just one drive. There weren’t enough of those today.”
Needing a stop, the Bruin defense forced a punt from Utah – its sixth of the half.
With 3:14 to play, UCLA had the chance to tie the game by driving once more, this time needing 82 yards to the end zone.
Instead, Moore was sacked three times for a combined loss of 22 yards, returning the ball to the Utes, who would enter victory formation until time expired.
The Bruins dug themselves into a hole early after Moore was intercepted on the first snap of the game by linebacker Karene Reid, who ran the ball back 21 yards for a pick-six.
Moore said the turnover – and the loss – can be attributed to his errors.
“It was a big mistake, and as a quarterback you can’t make mistakes,” Moore said. “A lot of the stuff that happens in the game relates on the quarterback after a win and after a loss. And one thing I will say: I can put this loss on me.”
Following the interception, UCLA’s next 11 drives featured eight punts, two turnovers on downs and one lost fumble. It only reached the red zone once in that span before Moore’s second fumble of the game was recovered by the Utes at the 9-yard line, preventing a field goal try.
The Utes extended their lead in their penultimate series of the second quarter, driving 51 yards in nine plays. After employing a predominantly run-heavy attack, a play action from Utah quarterback Nate Johnson left tight end Landen King wide open in the flat for a 7-yard touchdown pass.
UCLA wouldn’t reach the red zone until the third quarter, aided by a targeting call that turned a third-and-11 incompletion into a first down within the 20. However, Moore’s second fumble of the game – and the first recovered by the Utes – ended the scoring threat before the Bruins could attempt a field goal.
Defensively, the Bruins contained the Utes, forcing a punt on each of the home team’s first six drives in the second half while allowing 219 total yards and just one score.
Senior linebacker Kain Medrano said he’s proud of the defense’s evolution in his time at UCLA.
“Coach D-Lynn’s (defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn) first year here, you can just look at it and see what he’s came in and done to this defense, how he’s changed it, and how close we are as a defensive unit,” Medrano said. “We’ve got to keep worrying about us and keep making our plays and doing us, and I believe in this football team. I really do.”
Medrano led all UCLA defenders in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks with 10, 2.5 and 2, respectively, while also forcing a fumble in the first quarter.
With the Bruins entering the loss column for the first time this season, Moore said there’s a silver lining to falling early.
“A lot of teams go a long way and lose at the end, but I’m glad that we got to at least see how – me personally – just knowing how a loss feels,” Moore said. “It doesn’t feel good at all.”