No. 5 Washington, No. 18 Utah ready for key Pac-12 matchup
League: NCAA Football
Posted on: 08 Nov, 2023 at 07:50 AM
Credit: Jonathan Hui-USA TODAY Sports
It was supposed to have been a showdown between the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Southern California's Caleb Williams, and this year's favorite, Washington's Michael Penix Jr.
Until Dillon Johnson stole the show.
Johnson rushed for 256 yards -- the same number that Penix threw for -- and four touchdowns as the Huskies won 52-42 last week in Los Angeles.
That will give No. 18 Utah (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12) one more thing to worry about when it travels to Seattle to meet No. 5 Washington (9-0, 6-0) on Saturday afternoon in a key Pacific-12 Conference game.
Penix threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another vs. the Trojans, but it was Johnson who made the difference and earned the Pac-12's Offensive Player of the Week award.
"It takes the heat off of Mike," Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said of Johnson's big game. "It allows other guys to get touches. DJ had a hot hand, and he was doing what we thought he could do when he came into our program, when we saw the film from a year ago (at Mississippi State).
"It's just fun seeing the work he's put in to get himself in the condition and the speed he's at now, the physicality he's playing with. We needed every bit of it. So I'm proud of him, proud of the offensive line, too."
Johnson has come up big in the Huskies' most important games of the season. He had what was then a career-high 100 yards and a touchdown on Oct. 14 in a 36-33 victory against visiting Oregon.
Against USC, Johnson had 129 of his yards before contact, according to Pro Football Focus.
"The O-line did a great job of making holes for me, so my day was really kind of easy," Johnson said. "I just hit whatever hole was open."
It will most likely be tougher going against a Utah defense that is ranked first in the Pac-12 in both points allowed (15.9) and yards allowed (282.3) per game.
After taking a 35-6 loss to then-No. 8 Oregon at home two weeks ago, the Utes bounced back with a 55-3 blowout of Arizona State.
Bryson Barnes threw a career-high four touchdown passes and Ja'Quinden Jackson ran 13 times for 111 yards and a touchdown for the Utes.
"You don't want to let a team beat you twice," said Barnes, referring to any potential letdown after the Oregon game. "We had to regain our energy and get over that loss, no matter how bad it was."
Utah held the Sun Devils to just 83 total yards -- 43 rushing and 40 passing. Arizona State converted just 1 of 15 third-down attempts.
"When the defense is clicking and in sync and not on our heels like we were (against the Ducks), we're really good," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "The front seven was outstanding. Back end was good, too ... We just played a complete game at all three levels."
The Utes won't shy away from a national television audience for the Saturday game. They're 4-1 in those appearances this season.
"Anytime you can get national exposure and build your brand ... our recruits have certainly taken note of that and are excited about the exposure we've gotten," Whittingham said. "Now, it's a two-edged sword. You got to be on national TV and play well, you don't want to go ahead and just underperform every week. But we've performed pretty darn good this year in most weeks, and that has caught the attention of our recruits and that's been a plus."
--Field Level Media