Running away with it

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

FORT COLLINS — It didn’t matter whether it was Darrell Mack or Ray Stowers in the backfield for Utah — yards were easy to come by against Colorado State on Saturday.

Utah (6-3, 3-2) piled up a whopping 322 yards on the ground against the Rams (1-7, 1-4) and left Hughes Stadium with a 27-3 win. The victory extends the Utes’ winning streak to five games — the longest of Kyle Whittingham’s tenure as head coach.

“This win was huge for our team,” Mack said. “Especially heading into the bye week, we can kind of take it easy and get some rest. It’s good to be sitting on a winning streak.”

Mack continued his dominance for the fifth-consecutive game, rushing the ball 20 times for 151 yards. With this performance, he retains his place as the top running back in the Mountain West Conference, averaging 112.2 yards per game.

“They were very physical and (Mack) was pretty tough,” said Colorado State head coach Sonny Lubick. “He broke tackles, and if you stick an arm out there, he would run over it.”

The junior wasn’t the only impressive Ute. When Mack left the game early in the third quarter with a bruised shoulder, backup running back Ray Stowers filled the void skillfully. Stowers finished the game with 123 rushing yards and one touchdown while averaging 11.2 yard per carry.

“I’m backing up Darrell and he’s taking a lot of carries, so he’s bound to get tired,” Stowers said. “I just planned on capitalizing on whatever opportunity I got. I tried to play every play like it was going to be my last.”

Mack returned later in the game and isn’t expected to miss any time.

Defensively, the Utes allowed the Rams’ Gartrell Johnson to run all over them in the first half, racking up 95 rushing yards. The second half was a different story, however. Utah held Johnson to zero yards, forcing the Rams to search for alternative means of production. CSU found that means in its own backup, Kyle Bell, but it was too little, too late. Bell finished the game with five carries for 47 yards.

“(Gartrell Johnson) is a very good back,” said Utah safety Steve Tate. “When Kyle Bell is your backup running back, you know your No. 1 guy is pretty good. But we were tackling well and our coaches were putting us in good position to make plays.”

The Utah defense also kept the Rams’ passing game at bay with a slew of blitzes, finishing the game with seven sacks and holding the Rams to 140 yards through the air.

Tate led the Utes with 12 tackles, one sack and one interception. Sophomore Mike Wright had a breakout game, recording seven tackles and two sacks.

“That really was the difference in the second half and why we won the game,” said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. “We were able to stop the run and put pressure on the quarterback.”

Utah quarterback Brian Johnson took a back seat to the Utes’ pounding tandem of running backs in the game, but still finished with 118 passing yards and two touchdowns, as well as an interception.

The Utes scored on their first four possessions of the game. Johnson connected with Stowers for a 15-yard touchdown on the opening drive, then followed that with a four-yard touchdown pass to Brian Hernandez. Stowers added another touchdown late in the game on a one-yard plunge.

The Utes’ Louie Sakoda missed his second field goal of the year in the game, hitting the left upright on a 48-yard attempt in the third quarter. Sakoda was 2-for-3 on the night, netting kicks from 45 and 37 yards.

The Utes will get to sit on their five-game winning streak for a week, as they do not play next Saturday. They return to action on Nov. 10 when they play host to Wyoming.

“The defense played great and the running backs played great, so now we get to go into that bye week on a streak and kind of sit back and watch what happens in the conference,” Johnson said.

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Tyler Cobb

Utah running back Ray Stowers stretches for a touchdown in the Utes’ 27-3 win against Colorado State on Saturday.