It didn’t start super pretty for the Utes, as is pretty common for the Utes and home openers, but the No. 13 ranked Utes took care of business Saturday to move to 2-0 on the young season.
After forcing NIU in an opening three and out, the Utes went three and out themselves, after Zack Moss opened the game with a nice 8 yard gain to open up offensive action for Utah. NIU on the following drive drove down the field and took a 7-0 lead over Utah on a Ross Bowers front flip into the end zone. It took another couple of drives, but Utah evened up the score on a nice 60 play drive that ended with a Demari Simpkins 13 yard sweep into the end zone. NIU was selling out to stop Moss all game long, and a play like that to Simpkins was a thing of beauty as he walked in untouched. This drive was the first of four straight touchdown drives by the Utes.
Utah’s next scoring drive, to take a 14-7 lead, was the Tyler Huntley show both in the air and on the ground. After some big chunk plays to Brant Kuithe and Derrick Vickers, Huntley ran the ball in on a read-option, where NIU sold out again on Moss, from 16 yards out. NIU countered almost immediately with a 74 yard touchdown pass where Utah had broken coverage in the secondary. That happened a few times in the first half, which gave NIU some life.
Utah took the lead for good on the third touchdown drive where they really mixed things up. Huntley hit Dixon, Simpkins and Thompson through the air, while Moss, Wilmore and Britain Covey damaged NIU on the ground. Covey did his normal attempted on a double pass before bringing the ball down and weaving through traffic making something out of nothing. Moss capped the drive with a 16-yard touchdown as he ran dudes over on his way to the end zone.
In the second half, after giving up 200 yards though the air, and about 230 total in the first half on defense, the Utah defense locked down NIU. The Utes only gave up about 60 yards in the second half, and shut out the Huskies. Bradlee Anae really pinned his ears back and was a dominate force in the second half, and had multiple sacks, including a strip sack. Utah did drop plenty of INTs in this game, but Julian Blackmon finally got one after Bowers tossed the ball into triple coverage, and Utah put the capper on the game with a toss to Dixon that gave the Utes the 35-17 win.
Utah’s offense was efficient with almost 400 total yards, with about half on the ground and the other half through the air. Huntley was sharp with 214 yards and one TD, while going 14 of 19. Moss led the Utes on the ground with 80 yards on 18 carries with 2 touchdowns. We say 10 guys carry the ball today, while seven guys caught it. Andy Ludwig was diverse and attacked the field from almost every angle with almost every player.
Nice win for the Utes, who now face Idaho State at Rice-Eccles next Saturday before they dive into conference play with USC in 13 days.