Utes play the Utah way

By By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

One of the biggest problems the U football team has had during its fluctuating 2006 campaign is asserting itself on offense early in the game. In fact, the Utes are 1-4 when they don’t score first, and in the three blowout losses the Utes have suffered this season, Utah failed to do much on offense at all.

This was not the case Saturday when Utah hosted Colorado State.

The Utes received the opening kickoff and proceeded to march the football down the field their way–the U football way–which resulted in a touchdown on Utah’s first possession.

“You always want to get first points on the board,” Ratliff said. “So it was good for our offense to go out and move the ball on our first drive, you know, just go out and have success.”

The key to the touchdown was that the U kept CSU guessing the whole way down the field.

Utah started with a 5-yard rush by Brent Casteel, and then Brent Ratliff went back to Casteel through the air on an 8-yard pass play for a first down.

Ratliff and Poston combined for 11 yards on the ground on the U’s next two plays before the Utes made their first big play of the game.

On first down, on the Ute’s own 44-yard line, Ratliff once again handed the ball to Casteel, but instead of running it, he reversed the ball back to his teammate Marquis Wilson, who crossed midfield and gained 16 yards on the play.

With the ball now on the CSU 40-yard line, Utah didn’t wait any longer to put six points on the board. CSU was unable to contain Casteel once again as the sophomore wide receiver torched the Ram secondary, and even an under-thrown ball and a CSU pass interference call could not prevent Casteel from catching the ball and muscling his way over the goal line.

“Whenever we start off fast and make big plays in the first drive on offense, we thrive off of that,” Casteel said. “That keeps us rolling, and also it helps our defense out with just coming out more prepared and more pumped up and getting us the ball right back.”

The Utes also looked in control during their second drive as they had two big passing plays that combined for 53 yards, but four penalties stalled the drive that ended with a missed field goal.

The Ute offense, however, did not shy away from the bold play calling on its next possession.

Casteel started the drive with another catch for seven yards, but two incomplete passes looked to spell the first three-and-out of the game for the Utes.

But the Utes asserted themselves again when they called a gutsy punt fake on their own 27-yard line as punter Louie Sakoda rushed 14 yards for the first down.

After the Utes whittled down to the 50-yard line, in came Eric Weddle, who gained 13 yards on third-and-one.

Two plays later, Weddle re-entered the game, and instead of running the ball on a third-and-one situation, Weddle threw the ball to Casteel for a 25-yard gain, which brought the Utes to the CSU 6-yard line as the first quarter ran dry.

“We’ve just been waiting for the time to dial it up, and this was the week,” Weddle said. “Twenty-five yards, that’s better than me running the ball, so hopefully we can build off of that.”

On the first play of the second half, Weddle took the offensive reins once again and, on a direct snap, finished the job the Utes started on their own 20-yard line.

This inventive play calling was something Ute fans haven’t seen much of this year, and when they began to see how well it was working, it surely made fans wonder where it has been all season long.

Call them gimmick plays, gadget plays or just throw-it-down-the-field plays, but the Utes came out playing a Utah brand of football. This no doubt invigorated the players, but it also invigorated the people who were willing to brave the rain and cold and cheer on a style of football that was all too familiar back in 2004.

Lennie Mahler

Running back Darryl Poston blows past the Colorado defense to score a touchdown in Saturday’s game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.