Utah is 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the Pac-12 as a critical road contest at UCLA comes next on Saturday
The University of Utah played just poorly enough for most of three quarters on Saturday afternoon where Oregon State was perpetually hanging around, perpetually a play or two away from overtaking momentum, if not the lead.
As the third quarter clock began to wind down at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the 12th-ranked Utes had finally made clear they would not be folding, but just in case, R.J. Hubert made that point clearer.
The fifth-year senior safety intercepted a Ben Gulbranson pass 5 yards deep in the end zone and returned it to the Beavers’ 30-yard line. Jaylen Dixon’s 22-yard touchdown run on the second play of the ensuing drive was the beginning of the end of an often-frustrating afternoon as Utah ran away from Oregon State, 42-16.
In Utah’s first game without its leading pass-catcher, tight end Brant Kuithe, quarterback Cam Rising hit eight different receivers, finishing 19 for 25 for 199 yards and three touchdown passes. Dixon scored twice, Clark Phillips III picked off Oregon State starter Chance Nolan twice in the first quarter, and added another of his career-high three picks in the fourth quarter, and the defense overall played better than the 417 total yards of offense it yielded might indicate.
The four interceptions between Phillips and Hubert highlighted a defensive day that included holding Oregon State to three field goals on drives that reached the red zone.
Before Dixon’s second touchdown put the Utes (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) put Utah up, 28-16, Rising engineered an eight-play, 75-yard drive across 3:28, capped by him hitting Devaughn Vele over the middle at the 5. Vele then dragged two defenders to the goal line, extending the ball with his right arm for the score.
After an optimistic six-catch, 63-yard showing at Arizona State, Vele outdid that, hauling in seven Rising passes for 94 yards and the touchdown.
At the 7:21 mark of the first quarter, Utah had 14 points, but just 30 total yards. A well-placed 19-yard loft from Rising to Dixon toward the back-left corner of the end zone was the byproduct of a Phillips interception that set the Utes up at the Oregon State 25-yard line.
Later in the first, with the score tied at 7, Phillips again jumped a route along the left sideline, intercepting Chance Nolan and taking it 38 yards the other way for the third pick-six of his career and a 14-7 lead.
Nolan left after that drive and was ruled out for the game with a neck strain, but regardless of who was under center, the Beavers were committed to the run. Utah, after three quality efforts in as many weeks against the run, bent considerably in yielding 130 first-half yards on the ground, but never broke.
One Beavers drive early in the second quarter saw first-and-goal from the 10, but ended in an Atticus Sappington 26-yard field goal. Their final drive of the half, aided by shoddy tackling on a 63-yard catch-and-run from Tre’Shaun Harrison, stalled at the 5. Another 26-yard boot from Sappington with 37 seconds left sent Oregon State to halftime trailing, 21-13.
Between the field goals, Utah registered both its best and worst plays of the first half.
On third-and-2 from the Oregon State 24 early in the second quarter, Rising took a designed keeper, stiff-armed a defender, found space, then took on another defender before tip-toeing along the sideline for the touchdown and a 21-7 with 14:13 before halftime.
Later, as Utah’s best drive of the day to that point faced third-and-5 at the Oregon State 26, a WildCat snap to Ja’Quinden Jackson was bobbled and resulted in an 11-yard loss. On fourth down, Rising, a punter in high school, quick-kicked the ball to the goal line, but Utah’s coverage team couldn’t get there in time to avoid a touchback.
The Tribune will update this story.