Gary Andersen returned to Salt Lake City as the Aggies head coach probably realizing his team didn't have much of a chance. No matter the face he put on in public, the past has pretty much set the history of this rivalry in stone - Utah State just does not win.
Sure, there could be upsets and hopes of upsets, but the writing was on the wall well before these two rivals kicked off Thursday night in front of a packed Rice-Eccles Stadium. The game didn't disappoint in that regard, as the Utes pretty much had their way with a Utah State team in extreme transition.
That isn't to say, though, it was perfect. Utah did struggle at times on both sides of the ball and the victory - though large - couldn't sniff the complete domination of a year ago (the Utes won up in Logan 58-10). But we expected that, right?
We knew this game wasn't going to tell us much about Utah unless they managed to really struggle. Well they didn't and in some instances, they played better than expected. Especially Terrance Cain, who was making his first D 1 start.
Cain's numbers were extremely solid, but it's the way he stepped into the role and delivered two touchdown passes in three throws that really impressed me. Generally, when you're out there for the first time, you might come out a bit tentative and struggle. This was not the case and I do believe we have found our quarterback for the season.
With that said, he does need to make some improvements on his deep ball and it would be nice if he spread the ball around to the receivers a bit more (though this could have been by design). Regardless - he's quick, his passes were generally good and he held his compsure. You can't really ask for a better start.
Matt Asiata was another one of Utah's offensive players who stepped up - producing his best game to date with the Utes as he ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns. David Reed also was big, catching 10 passes for 172 yards and one touchdown.
I actually don't have much complaints about the offense. The play calling was a bit reserved, but that was expected and I thought Dave Schramm did a solid job in his debut.
The defense? That's a bit more sketchy. Which is surprising, because I think everyone expected the offense to struggle a bit and the defense to do all or most of the scoring.
That was not the case and instead, the Aggie offense had some big plays for big yards and big head-scratching moments.
The biggest came when Robert Turbin took off for 96 yards in the first quarter and scored a touchdown that kind of got the Aggies back into it. Those 96 yards made up for a good chunk of Utah State's 342 on the game. You take that one play out and that total drops to 246 - which is far more respectable.
And that was really the biggest issue with the defense. They were slow to start, adjusted a bit and pitched a shutout in the second half. Once they buckled down, the Aggies struggled getting anything going and Utah even had two safeties, the first time I've seen that happen twice in a game live.
Beyond the offensive and defensive plays, I thought special teams actually looked improved this season. Not sure if that was solely because of the opponent or not, but I think we'll find out soon enough next Saturday against San Jose State.
So the first game is in the books. The Utes weren't perfect, but it's about what I expected and for that, I am grateful.
Now Utah needs to prepare for the Spartans, who should be better than the Aggies, but still not good enough to really pose a threat. The fact this game is on the road, though, obviously means it's not a given.
We'll see, but for now, the Utes are off to a 1-0 start and you can't beat that.