Utes roll over TCU, extend streak to four

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

In a game where points were scored in bunches and defense and special teams reigned supreme, the Utes outlasted TCU 27-20 to run their winning streak to four consecutive games.

“It wasn’t pretty from an offensive standpoint by any means, but we got the win,” Utah quarterback Brian Johnson said. “We came in on a mission and it was a real team effort tonight.”

Utah’s defense produced four interceptions and held the Horned Frogs to just 280 total yards in the game, which forced the Horned Frogs to search for more unconventional means of scoring to keep them in the game.

Early in the second quarter, TCU’s Stephen Hodge returned a blocked punt 31 yards for a touchdown to narrow the Utah lead to 10-7. The Horned Frogs then used a 38-yard punt return and a halfback pass to take their first and only lead of the game, 14-10.

The Utes answered just before half with two scores of their own, one coming on a 24-yard pass from quarterback Brian Johnson to Marquis Wilson and the other coming on a 53-yard interception return by defensive end Martail Burnett.

“Our defense did a great job all night putting pressure on the quarterback and making plays in the secondary,” Johnson said. “We capitalized on a short field a few times because they were playing so well.”

TCU had much more luck on the offensive side of the ball in the second half and closed the deficit to seven late in the game on a 41-yard kick from Chris Manfredini, but an unsuccessful onside kick sealed the Utah victory.

“They’re a tough team and we knew they were going to keep fighting till the end, so we just wanted to keep the ball out of their hands at the end of the game,” Johnson said.

Utah safeties had a field day against TCU freshman quarterback Andy Dalton, with RJ Rice, Robert Johnson and Steve Tate all recording interceptions in the conference win.

Utah running back Darrell Mack recorded his fourth consecutive 100-yard game in the contest, rushing the ball 32 times for 100 yards and a touchdown. The Utes are a perfect 4-0 when Mack rushes for 100 or more yards.

“(Darrell) is doing an awesome job for us,” Johnson said. “He’s a very physical runner and our offensive line is doing a great job of opening up running lanes for him.”

Despite scoring 27 points, Utah managed to compile merely 227 yards of total offense in the game. Playing in front of a strong contingent of family and friends, Johnson completed 13 of his 20 passes for 120 yards and one interception.

The four-game win streak is the longest streak the Utes have put together since Kyle Whittingham took over as head coach three years ago. The win also keeps the team’s hopes of a conference title alive.

Meanwhile, the loss cripples a Horned Frogs team that has more losses through eight games this season than it had in the past two years combined.

“We knew going in that if we lost the game our chances for a conference title were pretty much done,” Johnson said. “With a win, we still have a chance to make something happen.”

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Associated Press

Utah’s Martail Burnett runs a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown during the first half against TCU during Thursday’s football game.