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Utah Football: Utes Dominate Fresno State 45-24

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Utah football moves to 3-0 after a 45-24 win at Fresno State

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn't always pretty at times, but it was effective for the No. 21 Utah Utes (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12) as they beat the Fresno State Bulldogs (1-2, 0-0 MW) 45-24, on Saturday night at Bulldog Stadium. The win marked the first ever for Utah at Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, Calif. Utah was 0-3 in games there prior to the win tonight.

The night started off a bit shaky as the cornerback Boobie Hobbs for the Utes fumbled the opening kickoff of the game. The defense did their job and minimized the damage, holding Fresno to only a field goal. That was a theme, by-in-large, for the Utah defense on the night. Outside of some soft coverage in the 4th quarter, Utah's defense had Fresno State on lock most of the night. Shoot, they joined in on the scoring with a scoop and score by defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu when Utah got to the quarterback and forced a fumble. Utah forced two turnovers in the game, both fumble recoveries. It was the first game of the season that Utah finished in the negative in the turnover margin.

The Utah defense held FSU to 365 yards, which was inflated a bit when Fresno State quarterback Zack Greenlee came in and picked up 144 yards through the air in the fourth quarter. Utah also held Fresno's star running back, Marteze Waller to only 62 yards on the night, his lowest total so far on the season.

Offensively, Utah started Kendal Thompson instead of the injured Travis Wilson at quarterback tonight. While Thompson was not stellar, he was efficient for most of the night, but there were some head scratchers out there. Thompson was 19-of-25 for 159 yards with one touchdown pass and one very frustrating interception. In a play that was pretty much dead, Thompson tried to throw across his body, while falling back, into the end zone to Kenneth Scott but was picked off. Thompson also did miss a couple of open receivers, but for a game against Fresno State, nothing that really came back to bite the Utes. Speaking of Scott, he may have only recorded two catches for 16 yards on the night, but his impact was much greater than that in the game. He was a favorite target for Utah on deep balls, where he drew two pass interference calls. He also made several key blocks to help spring Devontae Booker.

The Utes decided to ride Booker on the night, which was the best game plan, no doubt. Book had 156 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries, to go along with 56 yards through the air on five catches. Booker ran violently, and just wasn't going to be brought down tonight. Booker's night was summed up well with a great 4th down run by the big man that lead to a great TD after a spin move. Booker was also Utah's leading receiver, finishing the game with five receptions for 56 yards. Booker finished the game with 212 all-purpose yards on 36 touches.

His offensive line played much better tonight, giving Booker huge gaps to find.

Outside of the previously mentioned fumble on the opening kickoff, the special teams unit was locked in Saturday night. The fireworks started when Utah corner Cory Butler-Byrd took a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown after Fresno State scored a touchdown to pull the score to 24-10. It was a hard earned 98-yards too, as Butler-Byrd had to break multiple tackles to get to the end zone. Butler-Byrd gave the Utes some breathing room with a 31-10 lead. The Utah special teams was not done however.

Not to be outdone, after Fresno's next offensive drive went nowhere, true freshman wide receiver Britain Covey took a punt to the house from about 77 yards out. The play essentially busted Fresno's back and put the game out of reach at 38-10.

Utah punter Tom Hackett was not very busy on the night, only being called into service twice for the Utes, but he was excellent in both punts. He averaged 44.0 yards per punt with a long of 50 and downed both punts inside the 20. Overall, not a bad night for the reigning Ray Guy Award winner.

The Utah defense did soften a bit late in the game and allowed Greenlee and Fresno State to score 21 points in the fourth quarter. The game became a little worrisome after Fresno State successfully recovered an onside kick and scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive to pull the game within two scores at 38-24. However, Utah showed they were the superior team, finishing the game strong and putting the Bulldogs away. Utah capped their final drive of the game with their first passing touchdown of the year when Thompson found tight end Harrison Handley in the end zone for the five-yard touchdown pass with only 0:14 left in the game.

Now it is onto Pac-12 play as the Utes take on the No. 12 Oregon Ducks (2-1, 0-0 Pac-12) next Saturday in Eugene, at 6:45 p.m. MT on Fox.