Revenge enacted for Utes

By Chris Kamrani, Asst. Sports Editor

After the first half of Saturday’s showdown with UNLV, it looked to be a repeated, recycled episode of the Frank Summers show.

Luckily, the second half couldn’t have come quick enough for the Utes.

After struggling mightily in the first half8212;particularly on offense8212;the No. 22 Utes ran past UNLV with a 21-point third quarter on their way to a 42-21 victory.

Quarterback Brian Johnson overcame some first-half mishaps to toss for 183 yards and two touchdowns and went off to the races on a 56-yard scamper in the second quarter8212;the longest of his career.

“Yeah, I think I probably should have went to the Beijing Olympics,” Johnson said in reference to his career-long touchdown run. “Should’ve raced Usain Bolt after that one.”

The U defense was stellar in the second half of play, holding Summers to a meager 8 yards rushing.

“(Summers) is a good back, no doubt about it,” defensive end Paul Kruger said. “No one’s afraid, no one’s passive. This is a great defense.”

With Johnson and the U offense squandering first-half opportunities, the defense took it upon itself to shut the Rebel offense down8212;almost literally.

With Summers having 83 first-half yards, it looked as if U fans were in for another Sin City meltdown. The Rebels charged down the field with the game’s opening drive, marching with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that was capped off by a Summers touchdown punched in from two yards out.

While the Rebel offense was consistent in the first half, the defense was even more consistent on forcing three-and-outs. While the defense continued to shine and hand the ball over to the offense, there was no silver lining about it, the U offense was dormant.

“I don’t know why it took us till the second half to wake up offensively,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “But we finally did.”

Waking up could be an understatement.

The Utes came out fired up in the second half, starting with a David Reed kickoff return that saw him jet through the pack to be left one-on-one with Rebel kicker Ben Jaekle.

The prime field position led to a 32-yard touchdown toss from Johnson to senior Freddie Brown, which was his first of his career.

Although he was the person that set the offensive outburst in motion, Reed received flak for being taken down in the open field by the kicker.

“Man, I was just thinking too much,” Reed said. “I tried to give (Jaekle) a little in-and-out move. It won’t happen again.”

The play of the day came from someone lined up behind center, but it wasn’t the guy donning a No. 3 jersey.

Tailback Matt Asiata, who has been lining up behind center quite often during the first two games, faked the hand off to the streaking motion back, rolled out and lobbed a perfect pass to wide receiver Jereme Brooks who took it to the house for a 32-yard touchdown.

“That play came out of nowhere,” Asiata said. “When that play happened, I was so scared. I just wanted the touchdown, so it’s all good.”

Despite the first-half struggles, the Utes, as Whittingham has mentioned now twice this season, battled and defeated adversity.

“It was good to get in and get a conference win,” Whittingham said. “The first one out of the gate is important. We were a tougher, more physical team in the second half and our team responded to that.”

Game Notes: To mark the 10th anniversary of Rice-Eccles Stadium, there were post-game fireworks. The Utes were out on the field watching and celebrating with their fans. Punter Louie Sakoda had totaled a 187 on four punts with none being fielded by the Rebels. The Utes finished with 440 yards total, compared to UNLV’s 288. Defensive tackle Lei Talamaivao, who had been filling in for the injured Kenape Eliapo, suffered a broken ankle in the first half and according to Whittingham is done for the year.

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Lennie Mahler

Utahs RJ Rice jumps over the UNLV blocking line in an attempt to block a punt from Dack Ishii during the Utes 42-21win over UNLV Saturday.

Lennie Mahler

Matt Asiata rushes the ball against UNLV in the Utes’ 42-21 win against UNLV on Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Asiata ran the ball for 35 yards and one touchdown on 11 attempts.

Lennie Mahler

Matt Asiata rushes the ball against UNLV in the Utes’ 42-21 win against UNLV on Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Asiata ran the ball for 35 yards and one touchdown on 11 attempts.

Lennie Mahler

Koa Misi forces UNLV quarterback Omar Clayton to throw the ball away. The Utes defeated the Rebels 42-21.

Lennie Mahler

Justin Jones pulls UNLV’s Ryan Wolfe out of bounds after he completes a pass.