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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Football Notebook

By Bryan Chouinard

Utes’ defense shines in second half

Defense was expected to be the strength of this year’s Utes, but after the first half of Thursday’s game between Utah and Utah State, that did not seem to be the case. The Utah offense didn’t look like a team with a new starting quarterback and a first time offensive coordinator, but the defense struggled.

By the end of the first half, the Aggies scored 17 points, which included a 96-yard touchdown run by sophomore Robert Turbin. But that’s when the Aggie offense came to a screeching halt.

In the third quarter, Utah State only managed 20 passing yards and didn’t find the end zone at all in the second half.

Utah defensive back Justin Jones got his second career interception in the fourth quarter and senior Stevenson Sylvester? led the Ute defense with nine tackles. Junior defensive end Nai Fotu capped off the dominating performance by sacking USU quarterback Diondre Borel in his own end zone, causing the Utes’ second safety of the game with just under a minute remaining.

“We take pride in being a second-half team,” Sylvester said. “We made mistakes because of mental errors in the first half but buckled down and didn’t allow big plays.”

Rivalry roundup

Thursday marked the 109th time the Utes and Aggies have faced off, making it the 12th oldest rivalry in the nation. The Utes have owned the rivalry 76-28-4 and including Thursday night’s victory, Utah has won the past 12 meetings.

For the first time since 1944, the Utes and Aggies will not play each other next year. The series is taking two years off to make room on Utah’s schedule in 2010 to take on Notre Dame.

The two-year break came at a perfect time for Utah State head coach Gary Andersen. In his first game as head coach, Andersen was forced to go up against his old team and his good friend, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham.

“It was less emotional than I thought,” Andersen said. “Once I got here, it was just another football game. I do have to agree with Kyle, that this has been the longest football game of my life, the first one as a head coach. I am glad that we won’t have to play each other for a while.”

A look around the MWC

The opening weekend of the 2009 college football season proved to be a good one for the Mountain West Conference. The conference kicked off its 11th season in style when MWC schools went for a combined record of 6-2, including the biggest upset of this young season.

The Utes got the ball rolling for the Mountain West Conference on Thursday night behind inspired performances by offensive threats Matt Asiata, David Reed and first time starter Terrance Cain. The Utes shut out the Aggies in the second half and walked away with the win8212;35-17.

TCU was the only MWC team not in action during the weekend, and aside from losses suffered by SDSU at the hands of UCLA and New Mexico to Texas A&M (both of which came on the road), the conference had a strong opening weekend. Air Force crushed Nicholls State 72-0. UNLV handled Sacramento State at home 38-3. Wyoming held off Weber State in Laramie 29-22. Colorado State knocked off in-state rival and Big-12 member Colorado 23-17.

But what had everyone talking on Sunday was No. 20 BYU going into Dallas Stadium and knocking off the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners. Oklahoma not only lost the game to the Cougars 14-13 but might also have lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford as well. Bradford went down in the first half with a shoulder injury and did not return. Doctors are still unsure how long Bradford will be out of action.

Bradford wasn’t the only quarterback making the headlines. BYU quarterback Max Hall threw for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns Saturday night, including a 16-play 78-yard drive that culminated in a 17-yard touchdown pass to McKay Jacobson, which put the Cougars on top with a little more than three minutes remaining.

Hall’s performance earned him the title of the MWC’s Offensive Player of the Week. Defensive Player of the Week was given to Hall’s teammate BYU safety Andrew Rich. The junior free safety had five tackles and two forced fumbles against Oklahoma. Special Teams Player of the Week was given to Wyoming’s Austin McCoy. The place-kicker was responsible for 11 of the Cowboy’s 29 points in his first career start.

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