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3 takeaways from No. 11 Utah’s loss to No. 18 UCLA

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UCLA Bruins linebacker Darius Muasau, wearing blue, intercepts a pass intended for Utah Utes tight end Thomas Yassmin.

UCLA Bruins linebacker Darius Muasau (53) intercepts a pass intended for Utah Utes tight end Thomas Yassmin (87) at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Utah dropped its first conference game of the season on Saturday, losing 42-32 to UCLA.

Here are three takeaways from the Utes’ loss to the Bruins.

The play that changed the game

With 10 minutes left in the game, Utah had 3rd and 7 from their own 28-yard line, down by 10 points.

The Utes desperately needed a score, preferably a touchdown, but on the play, the Utes ran the ball and Micah Bernard only got six yards, setting up 4th and 1, pretty much for the game.

On fourth down, the Utes ran a quarterback sneak, but Darius Muasau forced a Cameron Rising fumble, which was picked up by Jaylin Davies and returned 37 yards to set the Bruins up at the Utah 1 yard-line.

In the blink of the eye, the game was over and Utah all but had its first Pac-12 loss of the season.

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet, who had a career day against the Utes, scored on the next play and the UCLA lead blossomed to 42-25.

On the most important play of the game, UCLA was simply better than Utah, which was the theme of the entire day.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson puts on a show

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson flashed NFL potential against Utah as he led the UCLA offense to 511 total yards of offense and finished with a quarterback rating of 236.2.

Entering the game, Utah was allowing 278 yards of offense — 13th-best in the nation — but the defense could not slow down Thompson-Robinson and the UCLA offense.

Robinson threw for 299 yards and four touchdowns and also rushed for a score. He went 18-for-23 throwing and didn’t really make a single mistake all game until he threw a pick-six in garbage time with 30 seconds left, in a situation where UCLA should have been running it with the game wrapped up.

Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley and his players, which had mostly contained Thompson-Robinson in previous meetings, couldn’t stop him in the second half.

The Bruins scored four touchdowns out of their five second-half possessions. Their only empty possession of the half was the pick-six.

Thompson-Robinson, playing his fifth year for the Bruins, looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12. His leadership and play is a huge reason why the Bruins are undefeated with statement wins over then-No. 15 Washington and No. 11 Utah.

Defensive struggles

As mentioned above, Utah’s defense couldn’t stop UCLA when it needed to in the second half.

Beside Thompson-Robinson, Charbonnet’s career day against the Utes’ normally solid run defense included running for 198 of UCLA’s 212 total rushing yards.

In addition, Utah’s defense missed a few tackles — the most missed tackles since the season opener against Florida — and looked mixed up in coverage a few times.

After punting on their first two drives, the Bruins did not punt the ball for the rest of the game. The only stop Utah got, besides the pick-six, was a goal-line stand late in the second quarter and UCLA’s field goal kicker, Nicholas Barr-Mira, missed a 21-yard field goal.

With one conference loss, Utah’s season goals are not out of reach, but the Utes have had two disappointing defensive efforts this season — the Florida game and Saturday’s outing.