Utes emerge victorious in apprehensive game

By Chris Kamrani, Asst. Sports Editor

The Utah-Weber State game wasn’t televised Saturday night and the 45,117 in attendance at Rice-Eccles Stadium could have easily told you why.

Despite the 37-21 victory over the Wildcats, the often unsightly performance by the Utes on both sides of the ball the left Utah players looking as if they had just had their undefeated season snatched from underneath of them.

“We obviously don’t feel like we lost, but we know we didn’t play to our capabilities or our best,” quarterback Brian Johnson said.

All in all, it was certainly a night to forget.

Utah’s nationally-ranked secondary was habitually pounded on by Wildcat quarterback Cameron Higgins, who was the FCS leader in passing percentage heading into Saturday’s game. Higgins passed for 303 yards, the most Utah has allowed all season by far8212;Michigan’s Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan combined for 169 yards in Utah’s season-opening win.

“The defense came out flat,” defensive tackle Greg Newman said. “It was unacceptable.”

This time it was the defense that was struggling early and often. Johnson had a nearly unstoppable first half, going 16-for-18, with 175 yards and two touchdown tosses.

Johnson went 2-for-4 in the second half, including a tipped-pass that was intercepted by Weber State in Utah’s endzone just after linebacker Nai Fotu forced a fumble to give Utah an excellent scoring opportunity.

“We had the one turnover in the red zone, but that’s something you can clean up,” Johnson said. “That’s something we’ll get corrected and cleaned up.”

In what turned out to be Utah’s best quarter8212;potentially of the season8212;the second was the Utes’ best friend. Johnson had one incompletion and was perfect on two other scoring drives. The two drives were punctuated by a 6-yard toss to tight end Colt Sampson and a 10-yard catch that was beautifully hauled in by Bradon Godfrey, which took a total of seven minutes and 38 seconds off of the clock.

The Utes outscored the Wildcats 17-0 in the second quarter.

The tandem running backs that are Matt Asiata and Darrell Mack rushed for a total of 95 yards combined, leaving Asiata with a couple goal-line punch-ins upping his rushing touchdown total to six on the season.

Change-up quarterback Corbin Louks was back in the offensive scheme of things, rushing five times for 35 yards. Louks was also involved in the play of the game. With Louks under center, he pitched the hand-off to Asiata who tossed it back toward a streaking Jereme Brooks who then lobbed it 33-yards to an unmarked, streaking Louks.

It was Brooks’ second throw of his career. Last year, he threw a 7-yard touchdown pass against New Mexico.

It’s a definite rarity when the story of the game is focused on a team that was just defeated by 16 points, but Ron McBride’s Wildcats fought valiantly to the bitter end.

“We just gotta do a better job than the second half,” Johnson said, “And (we) gotta step on their throats.”

Once Utah’s second-string defense came in, Higgins had a hay-day. With the Wildcats down 37-7 with less than seven minutes to go, Higgins went on to toss two touchdowns to make the game look a bit more respectful.

“It does,” Newman said regarding to the irritation of Weber State’s late fourth-quarter performance. “It really bugs me.”

With the No. 1 “giant killer” Oregon State coming to town next week, the Utes got a taste of what it’s like to deal with a miniscule, albeit talented player.

Wildcat Bryant Eteauti, who is all of 5-feet-7 inches and 160 pounds, pestered the secondary alongside his taller fellow wideout Tim Toone, who finished with a game-high 118 yards and one touchdown.

Eteauti, who is a talented guy, will bear no comparison to what the defense has coming at them next week8212;5-foot-6, Beaver running back Jacques Rodgers, who scampered all over USC for 186 yards.

“Definitely, it’s going to be our biggest challenge to date,” Newman said. “They have a great running back and a great line.”

Lost in the inconsistent play, turnovers and missed-assignments was the Utah’s offensive ability to put up 450 yards of total offense8212;including an impressive 180 yards rushing.

“I think we did some decent things,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We moved the chains 23 times, so some positives happened, but our football team understands that there’s a big football game in five days.”

It certainly was a peculiar game and certainly one to forget for the now 5-0 Utes.

“That one’s in the bag,” Johnson said. “We can take some positives form the game. Our focus is now Oregon State.”

TV or no TV, the Utes are looking past this obscure victory and onto next Thursday night.

“The Beavers just knocked off the No. 1 team in the country and they’re feeling pretty good, as they should.” Whittingham said. “That’s where all the attention goes.”

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