The Utah Utes were ready to play when they welcomed the UCLA Bruins to Salt Lake City on Thursday night. Rice-Eccles Stadium was rocking as they tried to will their team to a major upset over the defending Pac 12 South champion. A win over UCLA would have announced to the rest of the conference that the Utes were ready to compete at the Pac 12 level. Unfortunately for them, Utah couldn’t close the deal on their upset bid because of the turnover issues of quarterback Travis Wilson.
Wilson finished the game completing 22 of 44 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns but killed his team’s chances of winning with six interceptions on the night. Some of them weren’t necessarily Wilson’s fault with UCLA tipping some passes at the line of scrimmage and then winning the jump balls for them or just making phenomenal plays on the ball and taking it away from receivers but at the end of the night, the stat sheet doesn’t lie. Half a dozen interceptions makes it impossible to beat good teams and it cost Utah in this matchup.
Without those turnovers (or even just half as many), Utah would have had an excellent opportunity to win this football game. The Utes had more first downs on offense than UCLA, forced a couple of turnovers on defense and for at least the first half Wilson looked like the better quarterback. The sophomore was making all the throws early as he led the Utes to a quick 14-7 lead after the first quarter and was moving the ball even as Utah went into halftime down 21-17. In almost every aspect, Utah played well enough to win except in the all-important turnover battle.
The UCLA defense stepped their game up in the second half and forced five interceptions off of Wilson. Even as the Utah D valiantly contained the Bruins’ offense, the Utes couldn’t make up ground as interceptions sapped any momentum they had. Kyle Whittingham has his team so close to being a legitimate contender in the Pac 12 but Thursday night proved they still have a ways to go as they fell to 0-2 in conference play.
Travis Wilson is a great talent at quarterback and will blossom into one of the premier signal callers in the Pac 12 conference, which is saying something with the crop of QBs the conference has right now. He will win a lot of games in his career for the Utes but on Thursday night he cost them one against UCLA.