Utah football: John White, defense power Utes to 31-6 win over UCLA (photos)
The way John White has carried the Utah Utes this year, he should have been carried off the field Saturday.
Not only did he deserve to be recognized as the game's hero, but surely he could have used the rest, too.
Putting on a one-man offensive show, White led the Utes past UCLA 31-6 in front of 45,039 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
White rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries and hauled down a 13-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.
The touchdown catch put the Utes (6-4, 3-4) ahead 14-3, but White's backpedaling, back-of-the-end zone catch seemed to knock out what fire was left in the Bruins (5-5, 4-3).
Just to make sure, White added another touchdown with a 22-yard run with 3:18 to go in the third quarter.
After the score White slammed the ball down on the turf in the back of the end zone, effectively slamming the door on the Bruins, too.
His performance gives him 1,191 yards for the season, the fourth-most rushing yards in school history.
So was he tired? Nope, White looked like he had a few more carries in him as he addressed media members during the postgame news conference.
"They just give me the ball and I do what I have to do, whether it's get a first down or make a touchdown," he said.
The win makes the Utes bowl eligible for the ninth straight year and might have ended the Bruins' hopes of winning the Pac-12 South. It was also the third win in a row for a team that seemed down and out just a few weeks ago.
"It feels great to get that sixth win," safety Brian Blechen said. "It's the thing we've talked about, and now we're getting on a winning streak. Everything is working right now."
White's dominating performance was yet another for the Utes' unlikely hero this year. Back in August, Utah vs. UCLA looked like a game all about a chance of redemption for Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who left the Bruins in January after clashing with UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel over the direction of UCLA's offense.
Chow's offense worked just fine Saturday, even if it wasn't the one everyone envisioned it to be this year. Instead of having some fancy, pro-style offensive schemes built for junior quarterback Jordan Wynn, injuries have reduced Utah's firepower to White, a junior college transfer who wasn't even guaranteed a role in the offense when he first arrived on campus.
Chow's plan now: Give the ball to that little guy, again and again. It might not have been the most creative offensive plans, but who needs razzle dazzle when you've got White, who beat the Bruins inside and outside.
"Boy, do we have a running back," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "You watch him play he had a run last week where he went 62 yards and gets cut off and instead of going out of bounds, he dips his shoulder and stays in. He plays the game like it is supposed to be played."
White had 67 of the Utes' 77 rushing yards in the first half. He earned 39 of those during a second-quarter drive in which he carried the ball seven consecutive plays, including a 1-yard touchdown run that put the Utes ahead 7-3 with 5:34 remaining in the second quarter.
On the play before his touchdown, White was pulled about a yard as offensive lineman John Cullen tried to get him in the end zone.
Afterward, White joked that Cullen was more of a hindrance. "I probably could have scored easily," he said.
No one should doubt him.
Utah's defense also came up big again, with Joe Kruger harassing Kevin Prince, Blechen delivering several big blows and corner Conroy Black snagging two interceptions.
But a strong performance from Utah's defense has come to be expected under the Whittingham reign.
White, on the other hand, continues to be the surprise of the year.
He rushed for 1,491 yards on 184 carries a year ago at L.A. Harbor College, but who really expected him to do the kind of damage he is doing in the Pac-12? Heck, the Utes at one point were even worried the 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior couldn't hold up to the physical play of the league.
Now, it's apparent they had it wrong. He is fine the league's defenses are the ones that can't take the pounding.
"The stat is there," Whittingham said. "He goes for 100 yards, we win."
R In short • John White rushed for two touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass as the Utes beat the Bruins to clinch bowl eligibility.
Key moment • Conroy Black returned an interception 67 yards to put the Utes up 28-6 in the fourth quarter.
Key stat • The Utes are 6-0 when John White rushes for 100 or more yards. He had 167 yards Saturday.
Utah's 1,000-yard rushers
1,507 • Carl Monroe, 1982
1,396 • Dameon Hunter, '01
1,204 • Darrell Mack, 2007
1,191 • John White, 2011
1,173 • Mike Anderson, '98
1,127 • Del Rodgers, 1981
1,120 • Quinton Ganther, '05
1,076 • Keith Williams, 1991
1,069 • Eddie Wide, 2009
1,046 • Eddie Johnson, 1986
1,021 • Eddie Johnson, 1984
1,018 • Eddie Lewis, 1985