On the shelf

The U football team achieved its primary objective in its home opener-picking up victory number one to even up the team’s record at 1-1. But the Utes didn’t come out of it unscathed.

For the second week in a row, the team lost a starting wide receiver to injury. A week ago, it was preseason all-conference junior Brian Hernandez, who suffered a deep quad contusion that kept him out of action against Northern Arizona and may sideline him once again this weekend. His replacement in the starting lineup, former Southern Utah freshman star Bradon Godfrey, proved a reliable substitute-catching four balls for 80 yards and a touchdown-but he, too, will be sidelined when the Utes take on Utah State in Logan on Saturday.

The 6-foot-3, 197-pound wideout sprained his ankle on his touchdown catch in the third quarter of Saturday night’s ballgame. Now, if neither Hernandez nor Godfrey can play on Saturday, the start will likely go to sophomore Freddie Brown Jr., who is still somewhat inexperienced but did grab three receptions for 45 yards in the win against NAU.

Just two games in, injuries have already begun to deplete a unit that was considered one of the club’s strengths coming into the season.

“We’re more banged up at this point than at this same time last year. But injuries are a part of the game. We’re not going to sit and moan about it and cry about it. Everyone has them,” U head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We’ve just got to deal with them as they occur. There’s nothing we can do about it. There’s no waiver wire. There’s no trade we can make or anything like that. We’ll survive.”

While such injuries may hurt the U’s pass offense, the team’s pass defense took a hit as well Saturday. Veteran corner Shaun Harper picked off a Jason Murrietta pass in the fourth quarter that set up a Darrell Mack touchdown, which gave the Utes a 45-7 lead. But Harper paid the price, fracturing his arm on the play. The injury will reportedly shelve the senior starter at least six to eight weeks, which will leave him sidelined for most, or all, of the rest of the season.

The group, which struggled against UCLA but improved its overall play against the Lumberjacks, was already depleted because of Steve Tate’s knee injury. While Tate is expected to return this weekend to play against his former team, he will no longer be playing alongside Eric Weddle, as the preseason All-American will shift back to cornerback in Harper’s absence.

“It’s unfortunate; we’re thin at that position anyway,” Whittingham said. “It’s going to necessitate getting our guy Eric (Weddle) over full time at corner to make up for that.”

Early season injury trouble has forced a complete overhaul of the Utes’ linebacking corps and secondary. At the start of the season, Eric Shyne and Brice McCain were penciled in at corner, with Weddle and Tate at safety. Now, Weddle joins McCain in the starting lineup, with Casey Evans moving to strong safety.

Evans was slated to start at linebacker, but combined with Joe Jiannoni’s foot injury, there has been a significant change in plans. Instead of Jiannoni, true freshman Stevenson Sylvester is starting at linebacker, with the recently returned Kyle Brady (who was hurt during fall camp) starting on the outside opposite Malakai Mokofisi. Sylvester had four total tackles against NAU, while Brady had four of his own, including one tackle for loss and a half-sack.

The Utes’ annual showdown with Utah State is set for a 6 p.m. kickoff this Saturday in Logan.

Christopher Peddecord

Ute wide receiver Bradon Godfrey secures possession of the ball in a reception over Northern Arizona University’s Jeff Wheeler during the 45-7 blowout victory at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday.

Lennie Mahler

Wide receiver Bradon Godfrey strips the ball away from NAU’s Marcus McIlwain during a dual possession resulting in a third quarter touchdown for the Utes in last Saturday’s 45-7 win against the Lumberjacks at Rice-Eccles Stadium.