The Utes offense clicked last Saturday against D1-AA Northern Arizona, scoring on 7-consecutive drives and defeating the Lumberjacks 45-7. That victory was the highest offensive performance of Whittingham's short career with the Utes and it was also a game where the Utes' offense finally came together. Yet with all the success in Saturday's game, no questions were really answered.
For every improvement Utah seemed to have on both sides of the ball, the doubts of that improvement often center around the fact it came against a mediocre D1-AA team. Which is why we're left questioning Utah's progress from week one to week two. Sadly, it would seem those questions will go unanswered this week too, as the Utes take on another lackluster opponent in Utah State. While an instate rivalry game, it still will not prove whether Utah's offensive struggles in week one were a fluke or a troubling trend. In fact if there will be any questions answered this weekend, they most likely will be of the negative kind. As anything less than a blowout victory for Utah may be seen as a worrisome sign.
But with all of Utah's problems against UCLA, it's tough to not ignore their offensive success against Northern Arizona. The team clicked and Ratliff carved up NAU's weak secondary, while the Utes running game dominated all night long. This was Utah's largest victory over a D1-AA team since beating Idaho State 66-0 in 1994, the year Utah went 10-2 and finished as a top-10 team in the nation. While not a 66 point victory, the Utes did dominate. Their last D1-AA game came in 2001, when they defeated Southern Florida (hard to think the Bulls went from D1-AA to BCS in five short years) 52-21. Though the Utes offense did not score 52 points, their defense shut down Northern Arizona. In reality, the 45-7 victory is a bit deceiving because Utah could have easily scored 52 points or more, but called off the dogs with 10:00 or so left in the 4th quarter -- so a 52-7 victory wasn't out of the question. Let's hope that this season mirrors 2001 in the success, as the Utes finished the season 8-4, ending with a dominate victory over Pete Carroll's USC Trojans in the Las Vegas Bowl.
The NAU game told us nothing about Utah and that's a good sign, in fact one that makes me more optimistic about this season. If the Utes had struggled, pulling away late in the game, I probably would be doubting their ability to succeed this season. Yet with their dominate victory, I can't help but feel a bit relieved because historically when Utah dominates D1-AA opponents, they have successful seasons. Granted, the pool of seasons to pick from are minimal, but it does offer up some information on possible success.
The Utes made progress from week one to week two, but it's an unknown progress at this moment. But hey, progress is progress, right?