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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - So much was made about Norm Chow wanting to beat his former team.
But Utah running back John White had more of an axe to grind against UCLA, which didn't offer the California kid a scholarship.
Utah cornerback Conroy Black intercepted a UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince with 9:03 remaining, and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown, giving Utah a 28-6 lead. The interception was Black's second of the night.Quotable
"You guys have no idea. This felt good. There's nothing better than the last couple minutes of the fourth quarter when you know it's over and are just soaking it in." -Utah offensive lineman John Cullen, who acknowledged before the game that UCLA was his dream school. While he got 16 scholarship offers, none were from UCLA - tough for a guy who had named his dog Bruin
White ran for 167 yards and scored three touchdowns Saturday in the Utes' 31-6 victory, vaulting from 10th on Utah's single-season rushing chart all the way to No. 4 with 1,191 yards.
"That was very special for me - playing against UCLA, who didn't pick me up," said White, who moved past Eddie Johnson, Eddie Wide, Keith Williams, Quinton Ganther and Del Rodgers. "But that's OK, I'm here and I give everything I've got each play."
About the only thing that slowed White down on Saturday was left tackle John Cullen, who bumped into the 5-foot-8-inch White on a second-quarter run and tried to carry him into the end zone.
"If he wasn't in the way, I'm pretty sure I would have scored easily," White quipped.
He did one play later, then added a 13-yard TD reception and a 22-yard scoring run.
"Nothing really surprises me with John anymore," said Cullen, another Southern California native who dreamed of playing for UCLA.
"The guy's a beast. I love having him back there. Someone his size, even if you miss a block, he's going to hit somebody and get you yards. Mud and snow, anything, it's just how the guy plays."
With wintry conditions at the start of the game, the Utes became even more one-dimensional.
Quarterback Jon Hays was just 2 for 7 for 5 yards passing in the first half, but was 3 for 3 on the opening drive of the second half, completing passes of 16 yards to DeVonte Christopher, 33 yards to Dres Anderson and then the 13-yard TD to White, who had beaten linebacker Sean Westgate in the corner of the end zone, for a 14-3 Utah lead.
"That was the craziest catch in the world," White said. "The defender was all in my face. I couldn't barely see the ball until the last minute, so I just put my hands up and really focused and brought the ball into my chest."
Credit Chow for the play call against a team he helped coach the past three years.
"Coach Chow has been around a lot," Cullen said, "but you could tell there was a little more juice at practice. It was good to get it for him."
More than a win for Chow, who is 2-1 this year against former teams, the victory made the Utes (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) bowl eligible for the ninth straight year.
The win was their third straight after an 0-4 start in conference play in their first year in the Pac-12, including the 34-10 loss at Cal three weeks ago.
"I don't know what it was, but we just started clicking," said safety Brian Blechen, who led Utah with eight tackles, a forced fumble and a tackle for a loss. "People are starting to trust each other. Everyone's doing their job. And it's showing up."
In the end, the Pac-12's third-ranked defense silenced UCLA's pistol offense, limiting the Bruins to a pair of Tyler Gonzalez field goals and intercepting quarterback Kevin Prince twice - Conroy Black returning the second one 67 yards for a touchdown and a 28-6 lead with 9:03 remaining.
UCLA (5-5, 4-3) saw its grip on a possible Pac-12 South title slip away. The Bruins now will need a win at home against Colorado or at USC to qualify for a bowl for the 10th time in the last 12 seasons.
"Certainly, Utah outplayed us today and deserved the victory," said Neuheisel, whose record at UCLA fell to 19-26 overall. "I figured this would be a field-position game. But ultimately the turnovers cost us."
He also said it was time for the Bruins to "grow up" and play in such environments. The temperature at kickoff was 31 degrees, with light snow falling.
Ninety minutes before kickoff, a pair of UCLA offensive linemen could be found playing shirtless in the snow, tossing wobbly passes around like school kids. Not to be outdone, Cullen and numerous Utah teammates chose to warm up bare-chested a few minutes later, large flakes falling all around them and starting to stick.
A UCLA sports information official said the Bruins hadn't played a "snow game" in at least 31 years. There were flurries in the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C., in December 2009 when the Bruins rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to beat Temple 30-21, but an icy field and 19-degree wind chill were bigger factors than what was falling from the sky.
Now, the Bruins are reeling and players like Cullen are celebrating.
He acknowledged before the game that UCLA was his dream school. While he got 16 scholarship offers, none were from UCLA - tough for a guy who had named his dog Bruin.
"You guys have no idea," Cullen said of his backstory with UCLA. "This felt good. There's nothing better than the last couple minutes of the fourth quarter when you know it's over and are just soaking it in."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)