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After high scoring losses to BYU and St. Mary’s, Utah rode into Los Angeles to right the ship against UCLA and promptly shutout their opponent, 38-0. Behind a vicious attack and a stifling defense, the Utes scored five tries and three penalty kicks against a solid Bruins side for the victory.
“In the first ten minutes of the match, we were in their five twice and the boys dominated. Although we didn’t score in the first ten minutes, it was evident that we could get down the field and it was a matter of time that we could put a try on board," said Utah coach Haloti Liava'a. "They had a relentless effort of getting the ball, keeping the ball, and playing the ball. Being aggressive throughout the whole game.”
Fullback Tonata Lauti scored two tries on the day and prop Benj Mills, lock Nyles Lapuaho and wing Taylor Thomas each scored on the UCLA defense. Scrumhalf Danny Christensen completed a 12-point day with three penalty kicks and two conversions. The Utes held a 16-0 lead at halftime and finished off the Bruins with the shutout win, 38-0.
The Utah coaching staff attributed the win to the work ethic and strength of Lapuaho, prop Spencer Vickery, hooker Chad Gough, Christensen, and especially, All-American Lauti, who was key on both sides of the ball to the shutout.
To shutout a quality program like UCLA after disappointing early season losses takes immense effort and Liava’a said his team was up to the challenge.
“To give up 81 points [to Saint Mary’s] then 50 points [to BYU], the boys have a lot of pride and they worked hard on defense. Our #12 [Zain Rizavi] and #13 [Tuuta Pulotu] came up hard and fast and shut down the backline for UCLA, which is their strength. Defensively, our forwards did a great job controlling the game. We stole six lineouts and took a couple of balls from their scrums. It was a great game for our forwards and our #12 and #13, defensively,” said the coach.
“It was evident after the BYU match that there were three main things that we had to work on: taking the ball into contact, tackling, and our passing skills. We took care of the tackling; the boys tackled well keeping them from scoring. With taking the ball into contact, we lost the ball 11 times in the first half against BYU. This match, we lost the ball a total of four times taking into contact. The boys worked hard keeping possession of the ball and it was evident. We still need to work on ball skills. We still had a few bad passes, so we need to work on that. The boys put together what we’ve been working on and put it into application.”