The 13th-ranked Utah Utes (1-1) picked up their first win of the season on Saturday with a 73-7 win over Southern Utah in front of the home crowd inside Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The 73 points are the most Utah has scored in a single game since 1973, when it put up 82 points in a win over UTEP (82-6; Sept. 22, 1973).

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Not gonna lie, they had us in that first half

Utah gave us quite the scare in the first quarter only to shrug off the…funk? hangover?…from the Florida loss in the second quarter and make this look like more of the game we expected to see.

Interesting first half.

Utah was tied with Southern Utah 7-7 after 15 minutes. The Utes scored on their opening drive of the game — something you like to see — but it wasn’t the most encouraging drive. Utah began at the opponent’s 44 after the Thunderbirds tried to onside the opening kickoff. Utah recovered, converted a fourth-and-1 after two plays failed to get 3 yards, then scored on a 13-yard run from Tavion Thomas.

The next two drives: six plays, minus-8 yards, punt; one play, fumble.

After the giveaway, Southern Utah tied the game on a 28-yard quarterback draw up the gut.


Midway through the second quarter, the longest completion quarterback Cameron Rising had was an 18-yarder to Thomas on a dump-off. Utah was, for the most part, able to create offense from the ground game — Chris Curry has some pep to his game, doesn’t he? — but the pass game looked out of rhythm.

A 32-yard completion to tight end Dalton Kincaid opened things up. The ensuing play lost 6 yards on a sweep the Thunderbirds had covered from the jump, but then Rising hit Micah Bernard on a simple little Texas route for 17 yards to get down to the goal line. Rising hit Brant Kuithe on the next play all alone in the back of the end zone to put the Utes up 31-7.

Now we’re rolling.

Recognizing the budding rhythm on offense, the Utes stayed aggressive with the ball, putting up two more scores in the final four minutes of the half to take a 45-7 lead into the halftime break.

Yup, a 38-0 second quarter — the best scoring quarter for the program since 1968.

After the fumble, Utah scored on six straight possessions, with touchdowns on its last three. The final two drives of the second quarter covered 80 yards in five plays and 1:30, then 57 yards in four plays and 28 seconds. The dam broke on the last possession, but offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig’s decision to keep his foot on the gas was noteworthy nonetheless.

After starting 7-for-12, Rising completed 10 of his next 11 pass attempts for 183 yards. His first seven completions went for 71 yards. In the last seven minutes of the second quarter, Rising had completions of 32, 17, 25, 37, 22, and 16 yards.

All of last week against Florida, Utah had three completions of 15 yards or more in the pass game.

That’s the area of the offense worth watching the most in this early stage of the season.

(Rising was done after a half. Utah continued to pour it on in the second half. The Utes gained 599 yards, the most they’ve had in a single game since putting up 628 against Weber State on Sept. 7, 2013.)

Defensive spirit

This week of practice was a major gut check for Utah.

After the loss to Florida, Whittingham spared no feelings. He spent his Monday press conference talking about how the defense played soft, sloppy, and without any redeeming qualities. As far as public criticism from a coach goes, you won’t see it more blunt than Whittingham put it.

But for a proud defense, consider Whittingham’s words a challenge. Utah wasn’t going to completely make amends for its play against an SEC opponent with a strong showing against a WAC opponent, but it could respond to its coach’s test with some fire.

Utah’s defense played inspired. Southern Utah had 62 total yards in the first half. It averaged 2.5 yards a play. Junior Tafuna caused some problems on the interior. Karene Reid nearly had himself an interception. RJ Hubert did have himself an interception — and then returned it 39 yards for a touchdown.

Utah swarmed the ball. For the game, Southern Utah had just 85 total yards of offense at just 1.9 yards a play.

Good looking backfield rotation

Don’t look now but Utah looks like it has another pretty darn good running back rotation.

Two of the three from last season’s monster backfield return, so we knew the floor was going to be pretty high. Thomas got better as a receiver this offseason, per the coaching staff, but still looks like a powerful runner. Bernard is the Swiss army knife we knew he was. But Chris Curry has some flash. For so much of the offseason, freshman Jaylon Glover dominated headlines as the next back in the group. Curry shouldn’t be overlooked.

He finished the game with 60 yards and a score on on six carries.

Add that to what Thomas did — 11 carries, 58 yards, two scores — and what Bernard did — 74 yards on five touches — and it was a pretty productive day for the backs.

And, oh, by the way, Glover had nine carries for 53 yards and two scores in his debut.