PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Five years after Utah running back Joe Williams and UCLA quarterback Mike Fafaul left Fork Union Military Academy together, they both posted record-breaking performances on the same wild afternoon.
Williams rushed for a school-record 332 yards and four touchdowns in his second game back from retirement, and No. 19 Utah held off pass-happy UCLA 52-45 Saturday.
Williams broke off TD runs of 3, 43, 64 and 55 yards during the greatest rushing day in Utah (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12) history, surpassing Mike Anderson’s 1999 record, and the most prolific rushing performance ever by a UCLA opponent.
“I’m pretty sure (the Bruins) are tired of seeing the back of my jersey running down the field,” Williams said, giving the credit to his offensive line. “We’ve got five grown men out there that could be in the NFL tomorrow. I’m just glad to be running behind them.”
Cory Butler-Byrd returned the opening kickoff for a 99-yard touchdown on a day of stunning superlatives for the Utes in their second straight win at the Rose Bowl.
Williams quit football last month before returning last week when injuries decimated Utah’s depth chart at running back, and he has 511 yards on the ground in two games since.
“It’s awesome,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We’ve had some really good running backs come through here, and played against some inferior teams (compared to UCLA). He broke the record of all-time, and we’ve had a bunch of guys in the NFL, running backs that have done a lot of great things.”
Williams broke Anderson’s Utah record shortly before shredding Edgerrin James’ record for a Bruins opponent on his fourth scoring run with 10:28 to play.
“That young man had a world-class day against us, and that’s disappointing because we’ve been playing the run so well,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said.
Williams didn’t get a chance after the game to talk to Fafaul, his former high school teammate in Virginia.
Fafaul made his own history, setting UCLA records for pass attempts (70) and completions (40) while throwing for 464 yards, third most in school annals. UCLA essentially abandoned its awful running game, which began the weekend ranked 126th out of 128 FBS teams.
“We wanted to do something to help our run game and catch the defense off-guard,” Fafaul said. “It’s not about the records or my performance. I just wanted a victory, and it’s really disappointing.”
The former walk-on had five touchdown passes and four interceptions for the Bruins (3-5, 1-4) in their fourth loss in five games.
Fafaul was prolific, but erratic, in his second straight start in place of injured Josh Rosen, who went through warmups but didn’t play. Fafaul had the third-biggest passing performance in UCLA history, trailing only 500-yard games by Cade McCown and Drew Olson.
Utah: Williams ran wild on a record afternoon, but the ground game behind a dominant offensive line only lessens the sting for a Utah defense that got beaten for several big plays with poor tackling. Whittingham won’t be happy about the Utes’ inability to limit a backup quarterback and an offense with no running game.
UCLA: After struggling to run the ball all season, the Bruins abruptly reverted back to the spread passing offense run by departed offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. After running the ball just seven times in the first half, the Bruins didn’t call another running play until the final snap of the third quarter. “It’s difficult from the standpoint that (the Utes) kind of know what’s coming,” Fafaul said.
Utah: Injuries and defensive woes can’t slow down the Utes, who appear to be Colorado’s biggest competition for the Pac-12 South title. The Utes should slide up a bit in the polls with a difficult late-season schedule looming.
Utah: The Utes return home to host dominant Washington in one of the season’s biggest matchups in the topsy-turvy Pac-12.
UCLA: After a bye, the Bruins continue chasing bowl eligibility with a Thursday night trip to suddenly powerful Colorado.
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