I don't like playing D1-AA teams. You never really know how good you are after a win (just ask Oregon State and Illinois) and if God Forbid you lose, well it just may be the downfall of your football program. This is why I found it difficult finding much excitement for Saturday's game. I expected a win and expected it in blowout fashion, yet deep down I knew something could go terribly wrong and the Utes could either lose, or find themselves in a dogfight. Well neither of those scenarios took place last night and Utah walked to a dominate victory over an overmatched Northern Arizona University team.
It wasn't pretty early on, in fact Utah trailed 7-0, but the Utes then hammered the Lumberjacks into submission, scoring on 7-consecutive drives. The offense, which underperformed last week on the road, stepped up and produced an impressive 512 total yards. Starting quarterback Brett Ratliff also had a solid game, completing 17 of 27 passes for 299 yards and 3 touchdowns. On defense, the Utes held the Lumberjacks to only 7 points and 205 yards. Eric Weddle held NAU's star receiver Alex Watson to only 3 catches and 19-yards, this a week after Watson had 206 receiving yards against Arizona State.
But this was a game against a D1-AA opponent and it's impossible to tell how good or bad Utah really is after this victory. While they did not pull a Colorado, Northwestern or New Mexico by losing to a D1-AA team, they also didn't destroy and humiliate them either. It would seem that, like after last week, there are just too many questions and doubts about this Utah team to really make a realistic prediction on the outcome of the season. Those doubts probably won't vanish next week, as the Utes play another easy opponent -- albeit a D1-A one on the road -- when they meet instate rival Utah State. That game, like the NAU one, should be dominated by Utah and even a victory might not tell us enough of what we want to know about where this team is heading.
However I'm not going to dwell too much on the unknowns, especially after I've seen what D1-AA teams can do to those perceived better programs. I'm just happy Utah got out with a hefty margin of victory and that the offense finally put points up on the board. This was the offensive performance I think many Utah fans were expecting last week, especially Utah's running game. Darryl Poston led Utah in rushing, racking up 72-yards on 11 carries, while Mike Liti was close behind with 68-yards on 10 carries. The Utes had 213 rushing yards, balancing out Ratliff's passing game.
So what can we take from this game? Well Utah showed up and didn't overlook their opponent. It's probably too much in expecting them to average anywhere near 45 PPG and I doubt they dominate many teams again like they did Saturday night.
The Utes also suffered some key injuries Saturday night, losing Shaun Harper to a broken wrist and Bradon Godfrey to a sprained ankle. Godfrey is not expected to be out long, however Harper will be out 6-8 weeks.
Next week the Utes travel to Logan, Utah for their first game of back-to-back road contests. They play San Diego State down in San Diego a week later and then are home for a big showdown against Boise State.