Corvallis, Ore. • As it turned out, the only mystery about the Utah football team’s visit to Oregon State was whether the Ute offense or defense deserved more credit for a dominating performance.
The Beavers were supposed to provide considerably more resistance in their homecoming game Saturday night, but OSU’s slight upswing ended abruptly in No. 15 Utah’s 52-7 victory at Reser Stadium. If Ute coach Kyle Whittingham’s teams historically have failed to overwhelm some inferior opponents like the Beavers, this was an emphatic answer: 21 points, via 257 total yards, on the Utah offense’s first three possessions.
“Coming off a bye week, you expect to be a little sharper,” Whittingham said, but this was an extreme example.
And an OSU offense that had scored 76 points in the last six quarters against Stanford and UCLA was repeatedly stymied by an aggressive Utah defense. After more than 450 football games since the Pac-12’s expansion in 2011, the Utes almost posted the sixth shutout. OSU’s touchdown came with 57 seconds remaining.
The Utes produced the first interception of Beavers quarterback Jake Luton this season after 181 attempts, with linebacker Devin Lloyd grabbing a ball that was deflected by end Bradlee Anae and returning it 64 yards for a touchdown.
Ute running back Zack Moss returned from a 1½ -game absence due to a shoulder injury and carried the ball five times, with amazing efficiency. Moss had carries of 9, 16, minus-1, 91 and 6 yards (total: 121), with his last two producing touchdowns. He tied a school record with his 14th 100-yard game and needs only 55 yards to become Utah’s career rushing leader.
The Utes looked as explosive and efficient as they did two weeks ago in a 38-13 defeat of Washington State. Now comes No. 18 Arizona State, next Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. “That’s the same recipe we’re trying to stir up next week,” Moss said.
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley completed 14 of 17 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns, before exiting late in the third quarter. With help from his defense against Luton, Huntley now is one of two FBS quarterbacks (along with TCU’s Max Duggan) who haven’t been picked off this season in 100-plus passes.
Utah’s offense figured to thrive against OSU, although it hardly was supposed to be this easy. The bigger challenge fell to the Ute defense against Luton and star receiver Isaiah Hodgins. Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley limited Hodgins’ production (eight catches, 77 yards) by having cornerback Jaylon Johnson defend him one-on-one most of the time.
Scalley responded to OSU’s preferred strategy of using extra blockers in pass protection by blitzing far more frequently than usual, succeeding in disrupting the Beavers’ attack. OSU’s running game, supposedly capable, never got going.
By halftime, leading 35-0, Utah (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) pretty much could turn its thoughts to next weekend vs. ASU. The Sun Devils have similar records, after beating Washington State 38-34 with a last-minute touchdown Saturday.
This showing vs. OSU (2-4, 1-2) was even more than the Utes could have wanted, coming off a bye week. Utah’s offense was dynamic from the start, even with center Orlando Umana being ejected for a targeting penalty on the opening drive. Paul Toala replaced Umana and the Utes were not fazed at all.
Huntley completed 8 of 9 passes for 171 in the first half, including touchdowns of 21 yards to tight end Brant Kuithe and 30 yards to receiver Samson Nacua on a fourth-and-7 play. In between, Moss ran 91 yards for a score, getting out of trouble near the line of scrimmage, sprinting down the left sideline and staying ahead of OSU defensive backs who appeared to have a good angles.
Moss then rested for more than a quarter before scoring the next time he touched the ball, going 6 yards to the end zone in the last minute of the half, ending his night.
Reserve backs Devin Brumfield and Jordan Wilmore ran for touchdowns in the third quarter, as the Utes coasted home.