For two years, the Utes searched and searched for their missing offense. It had disappeared after their humbling loss to the TCU Horned Frogs and hadn't been since since. We searched high and low, wondering if we'd ever find it and even, partially conceded, that maybe it was gone forever.
I'm happy to report that this Saturday, Utah's offense was spotted in the vicinity of 451 S and 1400 E in Salt Lake City.
Now hopefully it's here to stay.
What Utah did to Weber State Saturday is unlike anything the Utes have done to any team since 2004 - sans, maybe, the Iowa State game from the last time Utah's offense ever had a pulse. Sure, the Wildcats are an awful program from a lesser division ... but it's not the first time the Utes have played awful teams from questionable conferences and divisions. Just a year ago, against an equally hapless Northern Colorado, Utah struggled through stretches, and though they won by a comfortable margin (41-0), there wasn't anything particularly satisfying about the win - not Jordan Wynn's inability to throw down field and certainly not an offense that seemed to struggle to work.
In this beatdown, one where the Utes scored the most points since dropping 82 against UTEP in 1973, everything worked - the offense, specifically Travis Wilson, looked strong, the defense actually defended well enough (though, considering it's still only Weber ... we'll see if that holds) and, most importantly, the running game produced. It was spotty at times, of course, but Utah had 338 yards of rushing ... albeit Wilson tearing off two long runs helped pad that number (as did Lucky Radley's mop up duty in the second half). That's still 145 more yards than the Utes managed in last year's game against Northern Colorado. Granted, sitting on the a lead and playing as conservative as they did in the second half, inflated those statistics.
But I'm not going to complain.
I still don't know what to make of Kelvin York, who only had 23 yards, but did manage a touchdown, but I think there is enough talent at this spot - between James Poole (who had a decent game), Karl Williams (who was a bit banged up and recorded only one play) and even Lucky Radley - to shore up any potential issues he may have down the line (if he has any).
So, I feel this was a mission accomplished game. There was a gaudy score, no injuries ... and the team made progress. With the schedule toughening up considerably these next few weeks, that latter point was the most important. Oregon State, even with their perceived flaws, will be infinitely harder than Weber - and BYU will be too. As much as this win was nice, and it certainly helped provide surprising entertainment value, the season will be defined by these next few games.
The good news is that I feel far more confident about this year's team than at any point during fall camp. That confidence was only bolstered by the way Utah State looked against Air Force, who, while not quite at the level they once were a few years ago, is still a tough team to beat - especially on the road.
But that win over USU was close and it took a few major breaks, and gutsy calls, for the Utes to win. We have to keep that in mind when looking at these next few games because it's possible, if not likely, they'll come down to a play or two similarly to what we saw in week one.
Then again, maybe the offense is improved enough so that doesn't happen. Utah dropping 70 on anyone is impressive because it's not something the team has done ... and only come close to doing a handful of times under Kyle Whittingham (if that). More impressively, I guess, is that this game could have been worse. If Utah wanted to, they could have dropped 80 or 90 on the Wildcats - a position I don't think they've been in since the 2004 season (though, they came close to picking their own score against Iowa State in 2010).
That's a good feeling. It's good to see this offense has life again. It's good to have confidence in a quarterback again. If Wilson keeps this up, he'll build a damn impressive legacy at Utah. He's explosive, accurate and fun to watch - something we're not really used to at Utah (even Brian Johnson had some heavy downs while leading the Utes' offense). If he can win the big games, he'll quickly cement his spot in Utah football lore. It begins this Saturday, carries over to BYU in two weeks and then sets up for a major divisional showdown with what is very likely to be a ranked UCLA team.
I'm excited to see that unfold. I'm excited for Utah football ... and I hope it lasts.
Here's some great plays from Saturday afternoon:
Utah vs Weber St - Travis Wilson 1st Rushing Touchdown (via MiltonVanderslice)
Utah vs Weber St - Travis Wilson 2nd Rushing Touchdown (via MiltonVanderslice)
Utah vs Weber St - Mike Honeycutt Touchdown (via MiltonVanderslice)
Now comes a big conference test. Utah hasn't started 1-0 in Pac-12 play since joining. Does that change this Saturday?