Rising rallies Utah to 35-21 win over No. 18 Arizona State

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
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SALT LAKE CITY – Utah is once again emerging as a serious Pac-12 title contender.

The Utes are gaining momentum in pursuit of a third division title in four years after taking down a third straight league opponent.

Cameron Rising threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns as Utah rallied to beat No. 18 Arizona State 35-21 on Saturday night.

Rising added 59 yards and a touchdown on six carries. Tavion Thomas ran for 84 yards and a score. The Utes (4-2, 3-0 Pac-12) took over sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 South, and are the last unbeaten team in Pac-12 play.

“We got everything we want right there in front of us,” Rising said. “We just got to go take it.”

Jayden Daniels threw for 237 yards and two TDs to lead Arizona State. Daniels rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown. The Sun Devils (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) surrendered 28 unanswered points after halftime.

Utah scored on four straight drives in the second half to erase a 14-point halftime deficit. Rising completed 13-of-15 pass attempts after halftime while leading the comeback.

“Got a lot of faith in Cam Rising,” Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said. “He’s a great leader for us and the players believe in him.”

The Utes pulled within a touchdown on a 7-yard run by Thomas. Then Rising tossed touchdown passes to Brant Kuithe on back-to-back drives to give Utah its first lead in the fourth quarter. A 20-yard strike to Kuithe tied the game midway through the third quarter. Then, a wide-open Kuithe walked a 7-yard pass into the end zone untouched, putting the Utes up 28-21.

T.J. Pledger‘s 7-yard run gave Utah a two-touchdown cushion with 2:39 left.

“They continued to make first downs, they went on substantial drives, and we couldn’t get off the field and it kills you,” Sun Devils coach Herm Edwards said. “Defensively, it puts you in a bad way.”

Arizona State totaled 97 yards in the second half and averaged 3.3 yards per play. The Utes were energized on defense by what they were able to do on offense.

“We just want to keep the juice and the momentum in our favor,” linebacker Devin Lloyd said. “Seeing those guys go down there and do what they do, it just gets us pumped up.”

The Sun Devils struck first on their opening drive, going up 7-0 on a 7-yard pass from Daniels to Jalin Conyers that capped a 12-play drive. Conyers walked into the end zone after being left wide open on the goal line.

Utah answered on its first drive, tying the score at 7-all on a 9-yard run by Rising. Rising converted a pair of third downs to keep the drive alive, running 12 yards on a keeper and connecting with Britain Covey on a 10-yard pass.

Daniels put Arizona State back up by two touchdowns in the second quarter.

The Sun Devils reclaimed the lead on Daniels’ 2-yard bootleg. LV Bunkley-Shelton set up the score a play earlier when he broke a tackle on a short pass and rumbled 59 yards before finally being brought down. Then Daniels tossed a 15-yard pass to Curtis Hodges to extend Arizona State’s lead to 21-7 with 52 seconds left in the half.

“In the first half we were hot, but we couldn’t get nothing going in the second half on either side of the ball,” Daniels said.

Utah drove deep into Sun Devil territory twice in the second quarter. Both possessions ended in interceptions thrown by Rising.

THE TAKEAWAY

Arizona State: Starting with their opening drive, the Sun Devils put together one explosive play after another to keep Utah’s defense on its heels during the first half. The tables turned in the second half when Arizona State sputtered on defense and offense.

Utah: The Utes put themselves in a hole early with a pair of turnovers. Utah came to life on offense after halftime, running off four straight scoring drives while averaging 7.5 yards per play on those drives.

FLEX MOVE

Covey was whistled for a penalty on Utah’s second scoring drive late in the third quarter. He caught a 6-yard pass on third down to get the Utes down to the Sun Devil 5. Two defenders rode the receiver out of bounds and Covey immediately jumped up and flexed his muscles at them – earning a 15-yard penalty for taunting.

It didn’t slow Utah. The Utes tied the game on the next play with Kuithe’s first touchdown catch and they took the penalty in stride.

“I didn’t notice (him flexing) and he apologized to the team afterward,” Whittingham said. “That kid made play after play as well. I love Britain Covey and his competitive spirit.”

FIRST TIME SCORE

Arizona State became the first team to score points on Utah on its opening drive against the Utes this season. It ended up being the longest scoring drive of the night for the Sun Devils. They drove 75 yards in 12 plays while working 5:10 off the clock.

DANIELS HITS 5,000

Daniels eclipsed 5,000 career passing yards in the first half. He came into the game needing 83 yards to reach the milestone. The sophomore quarterback currently has 5,154 career passing yards with the Sun Devils.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Arizona State Will Likely drop from the AP Top 25 after suffering its first Pac-12 loss of the season.

UP NEXT

Arizona State hosts Washington State on October 30th.

Utah visits Oregon State on Saturday.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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Donald Page/Getty Images
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.