SALT LAKE CITY — Jay Tufele's return to Utah was both a triumph and a heartbreak.
The Bingham alumnus who is starting for USC as a redshirt freshman saw his teammate knock the football out of Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley’s hands, and his instincts took over.
“We always do drills during practice,” Tufele said of scoring his first collegiate touchdown with a 48-yard scoop-and-score in the first quarter that gave the Trojans a 14-0 lead. “I just reacted and picked it up and took it to the house. I was just doing my job.”
Tufele’s return to the stadium where he helped his high school teammates win the 5A state title in his senior season (2016) started out like something of a football fairy tale.
The Trojans scored after Utah turned it over on downs, and then, as Utah moved the ball toward the end zone, John Houston sacked Huntley and caused the ball to bounce free.
Tufele picked it up and outran everyone to give USC its second score and an impressive start to a critical Pac-12 South game.
USC DL Jay Tufele is listed at 310 lbs.— Sporting News (@sportingnews) October 21, 2018
He shouldn't be allowed to move this fast.pic.twitter.com/YD1bQIbDNt
The 310-pound (6-foot-3) defensive lineman was humble about his return to Rice-Eccles and his touchdown.
“I am just grateful to be out here and to put to a show for my family and friends, and to just ball out with all my brothers,” he said.
Unfortunately for Tufele, who has three tackles and a sack for the Trojans, that play was the end of what looked like another decisive victory for USC. Utah would score 34 unanswered points before the Trojan offense could muster another score.
“Obviously, not our best night,” said USC coach Clay Helton after the 41-28 loss. “All the credit goes to Utah. I thought they put a good plan together and played better than us. We made mistakes on both sides of the ball.”
Helton said the offensive issues put too much pressure on the Trojan defense.
“The fact of the matter is, we have a three-horse race with three teams sitting at the top right now — Utah, us and Colorado. We have no time to feel sorry for ourselves.”
Tufele said he felt good about the defensive line’s effort, but added that they will look for ways to improve.
“I think our defense, we did great, but we can do better,” he said. “We’re going to go back into the lab and just work, and come out even stronger against Arizona State.”