Utah football fans tried to guess how many carries Zack Moss would require Saturday to break the school career rushing record, needing only 55 yards against Arizona State to move ahead of Eddie Johnson.
Nobody could have imagined that after 20 carries, Moss would remain seven yards short of the record. That just made his 21st run all the more memorable and meaningful in Utah's 21-3 victory at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Having struggled throughout the second half to put away the Sun Devils, Utah capitalized on Bronson Boyd's recovery of a fumble on a punt return at the ASU 32-yard line. Moss immediately provided the punctuation on a critical win in the Pac-12 South. Having struggled against an ASU defense designed to stop him, Moss finally broke free. He took a handoff around the left side and ran into the end zone, raising his arm in triumph.
“It was tough sledding all night,” Moss said, “but we finally got a crease.”
The Utes got the ball back again and Moss added to his total, finishing with 99 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. He has 3,264 yards with five regular-season games to play, plus a potential Pac-12 championship game and a bowl. Johnson ran for 3,219 yards on 564 attempts in 1984-88; Moss topped him on his 565th carry.
The record-breaking run would have come much earlier on the calendar, if Moss hadn't missed the last five games of 2018 with a knee injury or the equivalent of 2½ games this season, due to a shoulder injury and Utah's big halftime leads. “How it worked out was just fantastic for his family,” Ute coach Kyle Whittingham said, with Moss' parents making a rare visit from Florida.
The Sun Devils made it tough on Moss, even aside from defensive back Evans Fields' targeting penalty that briefly sidelined Moss in the second quarter. Moss said he was not hurt, but “just had to go through the [concussion] protocol stuff.”
He returned during that drive, scoring a 1-yard touchdown. That gave him 28 yards on 12 carries in the first half, and it didn't get much easier for him in most of the second half. ASU “sent as many people as they can to stop Zack,” said offensive lineman Nick Ford.
With his own late surge, ASU’s Eno Benjamin topped Moss’ total with 104 yards on 15 carries. Moss gained 8 yards on his final carry, falling just short of 100, after having lost 3 yards on his second-to-last run. But that 32-yarder is the one he’ll remember forever.