Travis Wilson

UCLA takes four-point lead on No. 13 Utah at the half

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UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Duarte on the game’s opening drive to give the visiting Bruins an early lead in Salt Lake City on No. 13 Utah. UCLA owns a 10-6 lead at the half, putting them one half away from gaining control of the Pac-12 South heading into their final game of the season.

Utah took its first offensive possession of the game into the red zone but Joe Williams had the ball knocked out of his hands by UCLA’s Kene Orjioke and Randall Goforth recovered the loose ball. It was the second turnover of the drive for the Utes, who had a Travis Wilson interception overturned by a pass interference penalty on UCLA. Goforth, as it turned out, was the one who came away with the interception. Williams is taking on the task of running the football as Utah’s primary running back with Devontae Booker out of action this week.

UCLA will gain control of the Pac-12 South with a win today against Utah. With a win, UCLA would then play for the Pac-12 South championship next week against USC., regardless of what the Trojans end up doing in Eugene against Oregon.

Utah pours salt on Harbaugh’s Michigan debut, 24-17

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The long-term future looks to be in good shape for as long as Jim Harbaugh sticks around Ann Arbor. The short-term future, on the other hand, suggests there could be some tough roads ahead. The Harbaugh era at Michigan got off to a losing start Thursday night in Salt Lake City. Utah’s (1-0) defense held firm in the fourth quarter with Justin Thomas picking off a pass from Michigan (0-1) quarterback Jake Rudock and returning it for a 55-yard touchdown and later stuffing the Wolverines on a fourth and short with 5:13 to play. For a second straight season, Utah flexed its muscle against Michigan, winning this year by a final score of 24-17.

Kyle Whittingham had his Utes ready to play typical Utah football, which is to say Utah played well on defense, forced some turnovers and managed to avoid having Travis Wilson implode. Utah’s quarterback was picked off once, but he completed 24 of his 33 pass attempts as Utah kept to mostly safe plays to wear down Michigan’s defense. That meant putting the ball on the ground with Devontae Booker leading the rushing attack and Wilson taking off as well. Each had a rushing touchdown in the victory.

While Michigan will fly home with a loss, there were some bright spots worth noting. Tight end Jake Butt proved to be a reliable target for Rudock as the two connected eight times for 93 yards and a touchdown. Amara Darboh also had a good game with seven catches for 91 yards. Jabrill Peppers had a good evening, making some key plays in the second half. He also had a kick return for 36 yards. And it was encouraging to see Rudock put together some plays late in the game to at least give Michigan a chance, if they had just recovered an onside kick.

This game alone should not go far in assessing the overall strength of the Pac-12 or the Big Ten against any other conference. Those arguments will continue to play out in games to come. However, the Big Ten could have benefitted from Michigan winning this one to carry over momentum gained from last year’s postseason. Now, the Pac-12 claims another notable victory to its profile. These types of wins can end up playing a deciding factor when it comes time to weighing playoff teams against one another, even if it does not involve Utah or Michigan. So point for the Pac-12 (and Pac-12 South), and no points for the Big Ten.

Michigan will welcome Harbaugh home in Ann arbor next weekend as the Wolverines once again play a Pac-12 opponent. This time it will be Oregon State, with former Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen making his way back to Big Ten territory almost as quickly as he left it. Michigan will have some time to work out some kinks, but BYU will offer another stiff defensive test at the end of the month before Harbaugh’s Wolverines jump into Big Ten play.

Utah will stay home next week to play Utah State. The Aggies were in a real tough battle with FCS Southern Utah, losing 9-5 at the conclusion of the Utah-Michigan game), with Chuckie Keeton having an ineffective night. Maybe Utah State wasn’t showing much to refrain from giving Utah much film? Or maybe this game will be a tad easier than initially expected for the Utes.

Harbaugh Era at Michigan begins with Rudock at QB; Utah leads 10-3

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The headline here should just about sum up the national reaction to this game. Michigan entered the game with all of the hype, much of it justified with Jim Harbaugh returning to his alma mater, and the continued question of which quarterback would get the start (Iowa transfer Jake Rudock got the call). Once you get past all of the Michigan fluff, you discover Utah had the upper hand. That’s how the first half played out at least.

Utah opened the game by marching down the field in 10 plays on Michigan’s defense, but the Utes could only settle for a field goal after pushing into the red zone. Andy Phillips booted a 30-yard field goal to give the Utes the first points of the night. Then stepped Rudock out on to the field to lead the Michigan offense for the first time. Despite what looked to be a promising drive, that ended after 10 plays when Rudock was picked off by Cory Butler-Byrd at the Utah 14-yard line. Michigan would later add a field goal after the teams exchanged a few punts, tying the game at 3-3 in the second quarter.

Utah regained the lead on the ensuing possession, working its way 75 yards for a Devontae Booker touchdown run from the one-yard line. Utah quarterback Travis Wilson mixed in some runs and passes on the drive to help keep things moving. Utah missed an opportunity to build the lead when a late first half field goal attempt by Phillips from 48 yards out was no good.

That’s where we stand now after one half of play. Neither team has thrived on third downs, and Michigan has been the team with the turnover issues (Rudock has been picked off twice). Utah’s defense has been difficult to find room to run on, with Michigan being held to an average of 1.9 yards per rushing attempt. Utah has done only marginally better, averaging 2.2 yards per rushing attempt.

FCS-to-Ducks transfer one of 30 QBs on Unitas Award watch list

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Even as one high-profile FCS transfer has yet to be officially added to his new Power Five program’s roster, he’s still highly thought of by at least one major award.

Tuesday, the fine folks at the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award released its preseason watch list, with the annual award given to the best college senior or fourth-year junior quarterback recognizing 30 players who meet the qualifications.  And, again, those qualifications are that they are, one, a quarterback and, two, are a college senior or fourth-year junior.

Included in that group of 30 is Vernon Adams, one of the most decorated players in the Football Championship Series who announced in February of this year that he would be transferring from Eastern Washington to Oregon for his final season of collegiate eligibility.  In early July it was reported that Adams had been admitted to UO and ruled eligible to enroll in classes at the university.  However, Adams will likely miss at least the first three days of the Ducks’ summer camp that begins Aug. 10 as he cleans up one final class that will allow him formal admission and his inclusion on his new squad’s roster.

There’s also one current FCS quarterback in the group: North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz.

In addition to Adams and Wentz, 2014 Unitas finalists Cody Kessler of USC and Dak Prescott of Mississippi State are included in the initial watch list.   Last year’s winner was the man Adams will attempt to replace, Marcus Mariota.

Below is the complete list of preseason Unitas Award watch listers.  And, again, those eligible are college senior or fourth-year junior quarterbacks.

Vernon Adams, Oregon
Brandon Allen, Arkansas
Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska
Mike Bercovici, Arizona State
Trevone Boykin, TCU
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Brandon Doughty, WKU
Blake Frohnapfel, UMass
Everett Golson, Florida State
Taysom Hill, BYU
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Driphus Jackson, Rice
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Chuckie Keeton, Utah State
Cody Kessler, USC
Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati
Fredi Knighten, Arkansas State
Joe Licata, Buffalo
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Maty Mauk, Missouri
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
Chad Voytik, Pittsburgh
Carson Wentz, N. Dakota State
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Travis Wilson, Utah

QB Donovan Isom takes to Twitter to announce transfer from Utah

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Utah’s quarterback meeting room will be one lighter when it enters summer camp than when it exited spring practice.

On Twitter Saturday evening, Donovan Isom tweeted out a photo of him wearing a Southeastern Louisiana uniform and helmet.  The quarterback confirmed to the Salt Lake Tribune that he decided to transfer from Utah to be closer to his family in Louisiana.

Last month, his family’s home was destroyed by fire, which triggered his decision to leave the Utes.

Another factor in the decision could very well have been the depth chart at his position.  Not counting Isom, the Utes’ roster is littered with five quarterbacks, including the incumbent Travis Wilson as well as well as former Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson.

Isom was a three-star member of Utah’s 2014 recruiting class who took a redshirt as a true freshman.  He took part in the spring game, rushing for 42 yards on 11 carries and completing seven passes for 15 yards.

Because Southeastern Louisiana is an FCS school, Isom will be eligible to play in 2015.  Including this year, he’ll have four years of eligibility remaining.

(Photo credit: Utah athletics)