I love spring football for many reasons, mainly because it’s a taste of football before the long drought of no football until the fall. Seeing Utah football on a rainy spring day was such a welcome sight. And I liked a lot of what I saw and got some surprises. First, I didn’t expect Cam Rising to play, but he suited up, albeit with a big yellow “don’t you dare touch the QB” jersey on, and he looked sharp, but we’ll dive into that a bit more in a bit.
The game opened with the red team taking the ball and being led by Ja’Quinden Jackson, and he looked pretty good to open the game. He was aggressive to open the game, trying to push the ball downfield, but missed on a deep ball early. The story for me for the red team, especially in the opening quarter, was how true freshman running back Jaylon Glover looked. He had an eight-yard gain on his first carry, and he was patient, waited for the hole to open, and picked up a great gain. He had about an 11-yard gain in the second possession that showed him evade a few tackles, and he broke it wide for the gain.
The first quarter ended with a 7-0 lead for the white team after Cam Rising led the white down for a TD on his only drive of the game. Cam looked excellent. He hit Vele for back-to-back big gains in what we all hope is a preview of what could be a big season between those two in 2022. The drive's highlight was a one-handed catch by Makai Cope for a 17-yard gain to set up 1st and goal. That kind of play could get that guy on the field at wide receiver for this team.
In the second quarter, the Utes were driving the ball, and we started to see Tavion Thomas get some touches, which surprised me because I thought maybe he wouldn’t see action, but he got a good number of touches. Going in for a touchdown, as Thomas stretched the ball over the goal line, the ball was punched out with the red team recovering. I do think it was a touchdown, but no replay to overturn the fumble on the field.
In response to the red team turning the ball over, the white team with Jackson threw an interception giving the ball back. The white drive did start well, considering it started with their backs to the goal line. Glover once again hit some nice runs to give the white squad some breathing room, but after a couple of nice throws by Jackson to keep the offense moving, he had a poor throw picked by Kenzel Lawler.
The white didn’t do much with the ball as they turned it over on downs after a Caine Savage sack on 4th down to get the ball back. I don’t know if I ever have seen so much blitzing in a spring game as I saw today, as both Jackson and Bryson Barnes had safeties and corners coming at them.
Jackson did redeem himself on the next drive, especially with the beauty of a throw, dropping it over the shoulder of the defender on the sideline for a nice gain setting up Jaylon Glover for a run to get them to 1st and goal. Jackson capped off the drive with a nice throw into the back corner of the endzone to Zach Vaughn for the touchdown to tie the game before halftime.
The second half opened with some fireworks with Bryson Barnes breaking off a big run, similar to Cam Rising’s Rose Bowl run, but instead of a touchdown, it was called by due to taunting. He wove in and out of the defense, and as he was running in, he turned back to look at the defense, which seemingly drew the flag. The points didn’t stay off the board long as Barnes hit Cope for a nice touchdown pass to give the white team the lead.
Jackson wasn’t going to let the white team pull away as he was able to counter with a drive of his own, with his legs and his arm. Jackson hit a big run when the coverage had everyone locked down and then hit Money Parks in the back corner of the end zone with a well-placed pass to tie up the game.
The shootout between Jackson and Barnes continued the next drive. After a couple of penalties and minimal gains, Barnes hit Munir McClain, a transfer from USC in 2021, for a big catch and run for the touchdown to give the white team a 21-14 lead, which proved to be the final score of the game. Originally a wide receiver, McClain moved to tight end this spring and made a great impression with the catch and run.
The 4th quarter was vanilla as more guys sat the game, and both teams exchanged punts and turnovers. Barnes was asked to run out the clock in his remaining snaps, and Jackson was done for the day after the 3rd quarter.
Overall a very good spring game with playmakers on both sides of the ball making some noise. Cam looked good, as did both backup QBs. I was pleased with the offensive output, and I can’t wait to see what they look like come the fall with more practice together and for the offensive line to gel with the loss of Nick Ford and Bam. The defense turned the ball over a few times, and we saw some playmaking on the backend from the likes of Lawler and JT Broughton.
Like Glover and Lander Barton, the young talent is evident with this team, and it looks like they’re gearing up for another run in 2022. I can’t wait for that game in Florida!