Sharp shooting: Utes carve up vaunted Cowboy secondary

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After moving the ball well all season with mixed results, some wondered whether Brian Johnson and the Utes could put points on the board against Wyoming’s dynamic defensive backs. The answer?

A resounding yes.

Allowing just 188.4 yards per game and 12 passing touchdowns entering Saturday afternoon’s affair, Wyoming’s No. 24 secondary in the nation was scorched for 384 yards and four TDs through the air.

Johnson is now 0.7 yards per game behind Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn for fourth in total yards nationally.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn said. “Basically, it shocked me; I thought it was going to be a much closer game. They worked hard and made plays, even without their No. 1 guy (Quinton Ganther).”

With Ganther on the bench, due to a sprained knee, and a depleted running back group, the Utes knew they’d have to challenge a stingy secondary.

“We had two weeks to prepare for this defense,” said U receiver John Madsen, who hauled in 12 passes for 117 yards. “The whole time the coaches have been telling us that this is the No. 1 pass defense in our conference. As a receiving corps, we kind of took it upon ourselves that we had to have a big game in order for us to win.”

Though Madsen led the way, eight Utes caught at least two passes as Johnson completed 32 of 45 passes and added 67 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

“Brian played a great game,” Ute coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Those are Mountain West Player of the Week-type numbers.”

The Cowboys did their best to pressure 18-year-old Johnson, but the sophomore showed a veteran’s savvy while just about everyone else on offense was equally effective.

“We just weren’t making the plays,” Cowboy free safety John Wendling said. “A great offensive line gave them a lot of time, great receivers made plays, and Johnson played great quarterback.”

The Cowboys never seemed to adjust. “We did a lot of zone pressures, stunts inside and a lot of checks to what they were doing,” Wyoming defensive end John Flora said. “It seemed like they were just picking up on all the things we were doing.”

“We knew we had a test going in,” Johnson said. “We just wanted to come out here and make a statement that this team will never quit.”

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