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Stars shine bright as Utes slay No. 8 UCLA 30-28

(Tom Smart/Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

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PASADENA, California — With Hollywood only a short drive away, perhaps its only fitting that Utah relied on its stars Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.

Key contributors from all three aspects of the game powered Utah over the 8th-ranked UCLA Bruins, 30-28, for the 80th career win for Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham.

Using the theme of the good, the bad and the ugly, here's a breakdown of the good, the OK (needs work) and the bad in the Utes' two-point win over the Bruins.

The good --------

Sack Lake City - Utah's defensive line was outstanding, sacking Bruin quarterback Brett Hundley 10 times (no that is not a typo). The 10 sacks marks the second-most ever in Utah history, tying a 10-sack effort against UTEP in 1983. Nate Orchard led the way with a school-record tying four sacks while also leading the team with a career-high 11 tackles.

Andy Phillips and Tom Hackett - Utah's special teams units were elite once again. What more can you say about Phillips, who knocked in the game-winning 29-yard field goal with 34 seconds left. He also connected on attempts from 48 and 45 yards. Hackett punted eight times with four pinning the Bruins inside their own 20. His great work limited UCLA's great punt returner Ishmael Adams to just one return for 1 yard.

Dres Anderson - His numbers weren't prolific, but his 42-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter put him over the 2,000-yard mark in his career, the fifth Utah receiver to reach that mark.

Kendal Thompson - After watching the offense go three-and-out three times to start the game, Thompson was inserted at quarterback to give Utah's offense a spark, and what a spark it was. Thompson completed his first eight passes before finishing 10 of 13 for 95 yards and a touchdown while adding 83 yards on the ground on 19 carries. It was his leadership and attitude, though, that had the most impact. He was constantly motivating his team through his tough play.

Devontae Booker - Booker was named the starting running back this week and he didn't disappoint by rushing for 156 yards on 33 carries, scoring once on a 6-yard run in the third quarter. Booker has now rushed for over 100 yards in two straight games.

Tevin Carter - Utah's safety didn't take long to make his presence known after missing last week's loss to Washington State while recovering from an injury. He returned an interception off of Bruin QB Brett Hundley 27 yards to give the Utes the early 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

OK (needs work)

Silly penalties - All this praise might have been for naught when a running into the kicker penalty gave UCLA another shot at a potential game-winning field goal. The Utes also gave UCLA three free first downs due to penalties.

Wide receiver drops - The game should never have been as close as it was because two Utah wide receivers dropped passes late in the game that would have kept drives alive. They would have given Utah a better shot at converting those drives into touchdowns instead of settling for field goals.

The bad

It is hard to find the bad in beating the 8th ranked team on their home field. It wasn't perfect, but Utah found a way to win.

However, Utah did give up far too many yards through the air to UCLA, allowing them to score on throws of 93 and 40 yards in the fourth quarter to take the lead in the game.

Moving forward the focus needs to be on closing games out when presented the opportunity, as the Utes were on the wrong end of not putting a team away last week against Washington State.

Robert Jackson is the cross platform sports and weather producer for ksl.com and KSL-TV. He has covered the Utes for KSL since 2008. You can catch him and co-host Brian Swinney Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9 p.m. on the Ute Sports Report 1320 KFAN.

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