There was no shortage of stars for Utah as it picked up its first conference win in the Pac-12 opener against Arizona State.
Ja’Quinden Jackson, RB
After transferring from Texas to Utah for the 2021 season and then being beat out by Rising and Bryson Barnes for the quarterback and backup quarterback spot, respectively, to start 2022, it would have been easy for the four-star Jackson to transfer and start at quarterback somewhere else.
Jackson decided to stay at Utah, and with Tavion Thomas not playing in the first half and Chris Curry out for the season, Jackson got his chance to see the field — as a running back.
The 6-foot-2, 227-pound Jackson proved capable at running back, rushing nine times for 31 yards and scoring a rushing touchdown.
Give credit to Jackson for being willing to play a new position and credit to Utah’s coaches for finding a way to get him on the field.
It’s a look Utah may use more going forward.
“Yes, he’s a natural, he did play running back in 8th, 9th and 10th grade full-time. Maybe 10th grade is when he transitioned to quarterback, but he has the background and he’s explosive, a big back at 230 pounds. Just shy of that, he’s fast, got really good vision. He makes some runs in practice and cuts back which is really impressive,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said.
“... When Chris (Curry) went down, you’re a guy short, if anybody could fill the bill and we decided to give him a shot and he embraced it and said absolutely with his mentality and his skillset. What you saw tonight was just a taste of what he could bring to the table. (Until) further notice he is a running back, we’ll re-evaluate that at the end of the season.”
Cole Bishop, S
Bishop had another great game after turning in an impact performance against San Diego State last week.
Bishop finished the game against ASU with three tackles, a sack and an interception.
He looked like he was shot out of a cannon on his sack of ASU quarterback Emory Jones, which was called targeting on the field before being reversed after replay review — fortunately for the Utes, since Bishop is one of Utah’s key players on defense and would have had to sit out the first half of the Oregon State game if targeting was upheld.
Bishop’s interception on the Utah 3-yard line prevented ASU from scoring a touchdown to open the fourth quarter.
“He’s an absolute phenom at safety. He’s everything you look for, so athletic, great in coverage, great blitzer and tackler. He’s the whole package. He’s got size at 6-2, 225 pounds. So you’re seeing one of the best safeties in the Pac-12 and in the country,” Whittingham said.
Bishop has been impressive every week and this week was no different.
The defensive line
The defensive line as a group played well and had a huge impact on the game.
Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley dialed up the pressure early and often and it paid off.
Utah sacked Jones five times and forced two hurries. Gabe Reid had two sacks and Van Fillinger had a sack. Linebacker Lander Barton and safety Bishop each had a sack.
Also up front, Utah’s defensive line did not allow ASU’s offensive line to get much push. Utah held the Sun Devils to just 6 total rushing yards.
It was an impressive showing in the first conference game for the defensive line.
“I think it was a couple things. The D-line definitely got after it but there were a couple of times where the quarterback would try and get the ball out but the secondary was able to keep him in the pocket and have him hold on to the ball, so a combination of the D-line and coverage,” linebacker Karene Reid said.