There are still a few more tests to take before Utah can board a plane for Los Angeles on Friday in preparation for Saturday’s game against UCLA at 7:30 p.m. at the Rose Bowl.
Utah had to cancel last week’s season opener against Arizona because multiple players on its football team and some staff tested positive for the coronavirus.
Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said earlier in the week that the coronavirus fallout “decimated” two of their position groups.
While who will be available Saturday should the Utes make the trip is still unknown, two updates from Utah athletic director Mark Harlan have been encouraging.
After noting the Utah football team had no additional positive cases over the weekend, Harlan tweeted that testing had continued without any additional positive tests during the week, tweeting on Thursday they were on track to play.
“Another good few day in football testing,” Harlan tweeted. “Daily testing and preparation continues as we move onward, day by day, to UCLA – lets all up our efforts and work together to mitigate and fight the virus. As always, continue to Mask Up!”
Another good few days in football testing. Daily testing and preparation continues as we move onward, day by day, to UCLA- lets all up our efforts and work together to mitigate and fight this virus. As always, continue to Mask Up!
— Mark Harlan (@MarkHarlan_AD) November 12, 2020
The Utes still have to make it through antigen tests Thursday and Friday before being allowed to travel, and their entire traveling party will be tested again Saturday morning.
PREPARING FOR UTAH
Whittingham still hasn’t announced who will replace All-Pac-12 quarterback Tyler Huntley, who graduated. It will either be sophomore Cam Rising or senior Jake Bentley, a graduate transfer from South Carolina.
Before Utah’s game against Arizona was canceled, Whittingham said he had made a decision who would start under center, but would not announce it.
“We’ll probably let him trot out there and do his thing,” Whittingham said last week. “Why give the opponent any lead time to prepare?”
UCLA coach Chip Kelly just hopes his defense does better than the 525 total yards it gave up in last week’s 48-42 loss to Colorado in its season opener.
Whether it’s Rising or Bentley, Kelly said the Bruins are preparing for both, and they’ve been doing their homework on Bentley.
In 2018 with South Carolina, Bentley threw for 3,171 yards and 27 touchdowns with 14 interceptions, but was limited by injuries last season.
“We’ve watched South Carolina tape on Jake, so our defensive staff has broken him down from that standpoint,” Kelly said during a conference call this week. “We just have to be prepared and he (Bentley) still has to fit into Utah’s scheme.
“So, how he was used exactly at South Carolina, you can get a feel for what he’s like and what his talent level is like and what type of quarterback he is. But you also have to be aware it’s the Utah coaching staff that has to implement the game plan on him.”
As for UCLA’s offense, it was actually quite good despite its four turnovers.
Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson turned the ball over twice, but he also threw for 303 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown.
And there is still room to grow as he shares the running responsibilities with a lot of backs, most notably Demetric Felton, who didn’t have his best game, but was still effective in spurts. Felton carried the ball 10 times for 57 yards and a touchdown, and caught seven passes for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Felton was pulled late in Saturday’s loss, but it wasn’t due to injury.
Kelly said it’s more about finding the right combinations. He also has Keegan Jones, Kazmier Allen and Brittain Brown to go with Felton.
“Our outlook is, at the end of the day are you productive in the running game?” Kelly said. “So, if someone defensively wants to say we’re going to take this part away, then we have to beat them with another part of the running game. That’s fine, we don’t care who gains yards, I’m not concerned.
“We’re not playing fantasy football where it has to be this person that gains 100 yards. Can we rush the ball effectively? Because when we have a quarterback as athletic as Dorian than can help in the run game, there will be games where teams defend it and try to take the ball out of the running backs’ hands and the quarterback has to hurt you, and there will be teams that want the ball out of the quarterback’s hands and the running back has to hurt you. Whether the production comes from the running back or quarterback, it’s inconsequential.”
MYLES JACKSON SEASON OVER?
When Kelly was asked before practice Wednesday about injuries, he didn’t indicate there were any serious concerns.
However, freshman defensive end Myles Jackson wrote on his Instagram page that he is out for the season with a knee injury that will require surgery.
Jackson shared on his Instagram: “Aye thank you to everyone who shared the experience of my first season with me. From friends and family back home to teammates here. It sadly got cut short due to an injury to my patella. Imma come back stronger than ever though GOD GOT ME!! Long road to recovery but we gonna get this surgery n be good! Everything happens for a reason. Time to rehab n support my team n get right for next season.”
Whether Jackson injured his knee during Saturday’s 48-42 loss to Colorado or this week in practice is not known, but he did get a lot of field time in Saturday’s loss and recorded a tackle.