Leading up to Utah’s game Saturday against No. 7 USC, there was plenty of attention, and rightly so, on the Trojans’ stellar stable of wide receivers.

And while they played as well as advertised, Ute tight end Dalton Kincaid outshined them all.

“He’s an absolute athlete. He’s got to be one of the best tight ends in the country, without a doubt.” — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham on Dalton Kincaid

Kincaid caught a game-high 16 passes for a career-high 234 yards and a touchdown in No. 20 Utah’s 43-42 victory over the Trojans at Rice-Eccles Stadium. 

“It was pretty fun, just knowing what the game meant to us,” Kincaid said. “The environment was awesome and the fans brought it. But coming out with the win was the biggest thing … I just tried to catch it and do what I can with it.”

Kincaid was targeted 16 times and he caught every ball thrown his way. 

With Brant Kuithe going down with a season-ending injury on Sept. 24 at Arizona State, coach Kyle Whittingham has said repeatedly that other tight ends and receivers needed to compensate for the void left by Kuithe.

“Dalton Kincaid — I don’t know what the record is for tight ends in a game here, catches or yards, but he has to be right at the doorstep of that,” Whittingham said. 

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Quarterback Cam Rising, who threw for 415 yards and two touchdowns, appreciated what Kincaid provided to the offense in a game that featured plenty of offensive fireworks from both sides. 

“When you’ve got a guy that’s battling and doing everything you can, it makes you want to go that much harder,” Rising said. “He’s the kind that has a knack for catching the ball. You’ve got to force him the ball in some situations.”

Kincaid arrived at Utah two years ago as a transfer from the University of San Diego. He has become a proven weapon and an indispensable part of the Utes’ offense, especially in light of  Kuithe’s absence. 

How does Rising explain the rapport he has with Kincaid?

“Just a relationship that we’ve been developing since he stepped on campus in 2020. It’s taken off,” he said. “He’s the guy to throw the ball to. You see what he did tonight when he touches the ball like that. He makes plays and he extends them. He can do it all. We’ve just got to make sure that we’re getting him the ball.”

As much as Whittingham misses Kuithe, he’s grateful to have another talented tight end on the roster. 

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“He’s an absolute athlete,” he said. “He’s got to be one of the best tight ends in the country, without a doubt.”

Whittingham said it wasn’t just Kincaid that made the difference against USC. Receivers like Devaughn Vele, Money Parks and Jaylen Dixon also made an impact. 

He was confident in what Kincaid and the others could do without Kuithe. 

“The tight end room’s got some really talented young men … It needed to be a concerted effort by three or four guys to pick up the slack for Brant,” Whittingham said. “Those guys certainly did. Brant was a big part of our offensive production but our players have done a good job of picking up the slack in his absence, making a bunch of plays.”

Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid is tackled after a catch during a game against USC at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.
Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid is tackled by USC defensive back Jaylin Smith after a reception and at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. Utah won 43-42. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
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