3 takeaways from Utah's comfortable 31-7 win over Weber State
Utah used a stifling defensive performance — and a pick-six from linebacker Lander Barton — to keep Weber State at arm’s length on Saturday and leave with a 31-7 victory.
The win closed out nonconference play with a 3-0 record for the 12th-ranked Utes and extended the nation’s second-longest home nonconference winning streak to 30.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
A conservative day from Andy Ludwig
Utah had four offensive drives against Weber State that ended with points.
Those drives spanned 10 plays, 10 plays, nine plays, and nine plays. The Utes had another possession that ended with a turnover on downs from the Weber State 19 after nine plays. They had a third-quarter drive that ended at the Weber State 30 after six plays and just 21 yards gained.
Everything was methodical.
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig was up against it a bit. The offense was missing starting center Johnny Maea, starting quarterback Cameron Rising, starting wide receivers Devaughn Vele and Mycah Pittman, and starting tight end Brant Kuithe. Kicker Cole Becker was out of action as well.
To see a conservative approach from the Utah play-caller wasn’t a surprise. It was the right move with second-year quarterback Nate Johnson making his first start. Johnson made a couple of throws. He put the ball into danger, but he trusted his arm and you like to see that.
The Utes were able to run on Weber State, and that was expected coming in. They didn’t need Johnson to make game-changing plays. They just needed him to avoid the game-breaking ones.
Johnson finished with 13 completions on 21 attempts for 193 yards and a score.
Utah ran it for 5 yards on a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter, looking to keep the offense on the field to salt the rest of the game away. And that was pretty indicative of the approach. “When we need to, we can lean on you and you can’t really do much about it.” The Utes controlled the game. But they didn’t quite dominate.
The run game leaned on Johnson, who had 16 carries for 71 yards and a score, and Glover, who added 12 carries for 47 yards and a score. Ja’Quinden Jackson averaged 7.7 yards a carry on his nine totes but he still doesn’t look 100%.
Ludwig let some other guys do work. With things sputtering a bit in the second, he dialed up an easy screen throw for Johnson to Mikey Matthews, who raced for 40 yards and set up a Money Parks score three plays later.
Just four plays of more than 20 yards on the day. Only three offensive touchdowns. Utah didn’t need much else to leave with a win.
Munir McClain makes his case
With Vele and Pittman unavailable, the 6-foot-4 Munir McClain stepped forward and made his case for some extended action.
He had two catches for 18 yards a year ago and had yet to make a reception this season. McClain finished with three catches for 92 yards. He had a 33-yard reception in the first quarter and then a 49-yarder in the second.
Munir McClain YAC threat 🔥pic.twitter.com/hwPmQn7d0w
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) September 16, 2023
Utah has been asking for more from its pass game to this point in the year, and it has been asking for more from its receivers for over a year. McClain showed he’s capable of making things happen down the field.
We’ll see if he can find some rhythm and parlay this performance into an extended role going forward.
Crunch time now for Utah’s skeleton crew
Utah begins Pac-12 play next Saturday at home against UCLA. The nonconference slate is done. It’s go time.
If the Utes want to have the opportunity to play for a third consecutive Pac-12 title, it needs all hands on deck right away. The Utes survived against Florida and Baylor, but they didn’t exactly thrive. It’s hard to say they looked incredibly impressive on Saturday against an overmatched Weber State team either.
The defense played stout, giving up just 127 yards at just 3 a play. Utah also won time of possession 40:05-19:55, so there wasn’t much exposure.
UCLA is no joke, whether it’s Laiatu Latu coming screaming off the edge or its quarterback Dante Moore looking to go deep.
The Utes are going to need to be able to score some points.
They need Rising to be ready to go, no issues whatsoever next week. If he was ready to play and could have gotten a few series in Saturday against Weber State, would that have helped? Probably. But if that option wasn’t available, you have to hope he can shake the rust off quickly against the Bruins.
It’s hard to know if the Utes’ seriously altered two-deep against Weber State was a product of significant, concerning injury issues or if it was just a case of Utah wanting to ensure anyone who was iffy had an extra week to get ready for the stretch run.
Ready or not, it’s here.