Utah has had a history of struggling against mediocre Aztec teams and last season San Diego State rolled into Salt Lake City and defeated the Utes 28-19. Coach Whittingham and Utah have only lost two games since and repaid the Aztecs by giving them their worst loss since a 43-7 setback against UCLA in 2002. The 38-7 victory was also the most lopsided in the series history and gave the Utes a 1-0 conference start.
Utah was quick to score against a solid Aztec defense as Brett Ratliff led the Utes downfield on a 75-yard drive to start the game. From there Darryl Poston punched it in on first and goal and the Utes quickly went up 7-0. However the Aztecs offense moved the ball solidly as the Utes struggled to adjust to the running game. Darren Mougey's pass to Brett Swain in the back of the end zone knotted the game up at 7-7. That would prove to be the turning point in the game, as Eric Weddle was pissed off for getting burned on Swain's 19-yard touchdown. That would set in motion what only can be described as the Eric Weddle show.
Early in the second quarter, lined up under center, Eric Weddle took the snap and ran in a 3-yard touchdown, giving the Utes a 14-7 lead. On the Aztecs ensuing possession, Weddle stepped in front of a Mougey pass and intercepted it for the score. In 32 seconds -- oddly enough Weddle's number -- he had scored two touchdowns for the Utes and broke open the flood gates on a confused and lost Aztecs team. After taking a quick 21-7 lead, the Utes never looked back and the Aztecs could never find their rhythm. Weddle though was not done there, as he had two more interceptions and returned the third for yet another Utah score.
Brett Ratliff played decent, but not fantastic. He completed 12 of 26 passes for 157-yards and one touchdown. But the performance was more than enough, especially with the way Utah's running game played against a tough Aztecs defensive line. The Utes wracked up 188-yards on the ground with Poston finishing as the leading rusher with 47-yards on 14-carries. Ratliff, proving weekly he's a solid scrambling quarterback, accounted for 46 of those yards on only 6-carries. Utah got a balanced effort on offense, as nearly half their yards came through the air and the other half on the ground.
The Utes defense yielded little against the Aztecs, however San Diego State still managed to run for 204-yards. That could be attributed to the fact the Aztecs' offense revolved around the running game the entire night and toward the end of the contest Utah's 2nd and 3rd string defense surrendered some big gains by San Diego State backup running back Atiyyah Henderson. The Utes defense kept Lynell Hamilton, the Aztecs' star running back, in check most of the night only allowing him to run for 52-yards on 16 carries. Utah also shut down San Diego State's passing game, intercepting 4 Mougey passes and forcing him to complete only 9 of 19 passes. After giving the Aztecs 7 on their first drive, Utah pitched the shutout the rest of the game. Utah has won their last three games by a combined score of 131-14.
This was an important win for the Utes and sets up an epic game against Boise State next week. If the Utes can get it done against the Broncos, it could be the start of something special.