Utah Football Faces SUU in Home-Opener

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Xiangyao Tang

University of Utah Football’s quarterback Cameron Rising plays against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sean Overton, Sports Writer

 

The University of Utah football team looks to change the tide after suffering heartbreak on the road against Florida. In an unfortunate matchup last week, the Utes threw an interception from the six-yard line on what would have been a game-winning drive.

With the loss, Utah suffered in the AP Poll, dropping to No. 13. This puts the Utes just behind Florida, who sit at No. 12. They were also surpassed by USC, now No. 10, who newly sit as the highest ranked Pac-12 team after defeating Rice 66-14.

But Utah is looking to put the past behind them and is gearing up to play their home-opener this Saturday against Southern Utah University. The two teams have only played once, a 24-0 victory for the Utes back in 2016.

SUU isn’t particularly known for their football, but they got their season off to a good start last week. The Thunderbirds steamrolled St. Thomas in a 44-13 victory. It was also their first game under a new head coach, DeLane Fitzgerald.

The Thunderbirds looked strong offensively last week, with quarterback Justin Miller throwing for 364 yards and three touchdowns while completing over 65% of his passes. Miller will be a threat to Utah’s defense, who seemed unable to keep up with Anthony Richardson last week.

The loss of Devin Lloyd became apparent last week, with many Utes failing to finish their tackles. This only leaves the fans to wonder how different the game might have gone if Lloyd were still on the team. Utah will need somebody to step up and be a major defensive threat if they hope to compete in big games.

But the big difference in this game will come from Utah’s offense. Quarterback Cam Rising went 22-32 for 216 yards last week. He also showed his mobility, rushing for 91 yards on seven attempts.

Besides the interception that cost Utah the game, Rising played beautifully against Florida’s defense. This week will be a great opportunity to put that mistake behind him and boost his confidence heading into the season.

One flaw in the offense that Utah will need to figure out is rushing. Tavion Thomas saw 23 attempts for 115 net yards, but Micah Bernard didn’t have the same impact as last season.

Bernard is a very versatile player at both receiving and rushing, and the offense will need to utilize him to keep opponents on their toes throughout the season.

The Utes had their flaws last week, but they are facing a much easier team this week. The team also doesn’t have to deal with the weather or opposing fans this week.

With some time to learn from the heartbreak at Florida, Utah should be coming into this game revitalized and ready to prove that they can be a top contender throughout the season.

Be sure to show up to the Hall Of Fame Game on Sept. 10 and support the Utes as they open their home season.

 

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@SeanOverton3