SALT LAKE CITY – The University of Utah football team took care of any doubt early by earning a 17-0 lead as well as a 174-4 edge in total offense after the first quarter of a 59-27 win over Fresno State Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Utah (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12) compiled 526 yards of total offense on the day and put up back-to-back 50-point games for the first time since 2010, when the Utes put up three straight 50-plus-point games (New Mexico, San Jose State and Iowa State).
The Utah offense scored on its first three drives and held a 174-4 advantage in yardage during the first quarter as the Utes stormed to a 17-0 lead over the Bulldogs. The Utes outgained the Bulldogs in the first half, 320 to 130, and headed into the lockerroom with a 31-7 edge.
Junior quarterback Travis Wilson threw a career-high five touchdowns without an interception and ended up 11-for-20 for 181 yards. This was Utah’s first five-touchdown pass performance since Brian Johnson against San Diego State in 2008. With five touchdowns scored in the game, Wilson tied for third in school history. He also rushed 11 times for 37 net yards.
Junior Kendal Thompson came on with 6:35 remaining in the third quarter and produced his first career rushing and passing touchdowns. During his first drive, he scampered on three runs for 41 yards, including his first career touchdown pass, a 14-yard effort, during his opening drive at quarterback. He then fired a 45-yard touchdown pass for his first career touchdown throw. He finished the game 4-of-7 throwing for 71 yards and one touchdown and rushed nine times for a team-high 71 yards with one score.
Senior wide receiver Dres Anderson came down with a team-high 84 yards on only three receptions, including a 38-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter and a 5-yard scoring catch in the third quarter.
Two Ute running backs rushed for at least 60 yards and combined for 127 rush yards. Junior Devontae Booker went for 67 yards on 10 carries (6.7 per carry) and junior Bubba Poole had 60 yards on 13 attempts.
Junior wide receiver Kenneth Scott had a career-high six catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, including a 36-yard score at the end of the first half.
Eleven different Utes combined for 13 TFLs, which is tied for the third-most in a single game in school history and the most since the Colorado State game in 2007. That mark had been achieved four other times in school history.
Defensive tackle Clint Shephard registered a team-high 2.5 tackles for loss, including a sack. During the first series, Shephard had a sack and 1-yard tackle for loss that set up an FSU fourth-down attempt which Utah ultimately stopped.
Sophomore defensive end Hunter Dimick turned in a pair of sacks and a total of six tackles, while sophomore linebacker Pita Taumoepenu had 1.5.
Senior cornerback Eric Rowe had a team-high 11 tackles, his sixth career double-digit-tackle performance, to go along with 0.5 tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Nate Orchard and nickleback Justin Thomas each recorded a pass break up. Orchard also tied for second on the team with six tackles, including 0.5 tackles for loss. Safety Tevin Carter and linebacker Jared Norris each recorded six tackles apiece.
The Utes set the tone early by allowing just four yards with four tackles for loss in first quarter, led by consecutive sacks by Shepard and Dimick.
Rowe had a pass breakup to help Utah stop FSU on its first series before Wilson then found Anderson on a corner route down the left sideline for a 41-yard pickup on Utah’s first play from scrimmage that led to a Phillips’ 47-yard field goal, his first of the season, that capped a five-play, 34-yard, 1:41 scoring drive.
Shepard and Dimick came up with back-to-back stops to stop Fresno State’s second series. The next Utah drive was highlighted by an Anderson 6-yard gain on a reverse and a facemask penalty moved the Utah offense to the 12-yard line before Wilson found Scott for an acrobatic 7-yard touchdown reception that gave the Utes a 10-0 lead after a 9-play, 56-yard, 3:01 drive.
A 17-yard rush by Wilson started Utah’s third drive of the quarter and found Anderson for 38 yards on a go route down the home sideline for his second touchdown pass of the quarter and gave the Utes a 17-0 edge after a four-play, 49 yards and 1:07.
Wilson found Scott on a 9-yard route on third down before FSU stuffed Poole on fourth down to come up with its first defensive stop.
The Bulldogs registered their first three first-downs during their first drive of the second quarter before the Utes came up with a fourth-down stop after an errant Fresno State pitch that saw the Utes recover on their own 27-yard line.
Booker sprang for his first run, a 16-yard effort, before Wilson found Westlee Tonga down the seam for a 24-yard scored to close a six-play, 58-yard 1:47 scoring drive. It was Tonga’s second career touchdown reception.
Fresno State’s first touchdown drive of the contest was spurred by a 40-yard reception by Josh Harper from Brand Connette to bring FSU within 24-7.
Utah responded promptly in the next drive as Booker spun off a would-be tackle for a 19-yard rush in Utah’s ensuing drive that ended with Scott breaking a series of tackles down the left sideline for a 34-yard touchdown reception, which was Wilson’s fourth touchdown pass of the year, in six-play, 80-yard play in 1:50 to push Utah’s advantage back to 24 points, 31-7.
Tom Hackett placed a 65-yard rugby-style punt after Utah’s first series of the second half and had five punts of at least 50 yards or more. He downed punts inside the nine and four-yard lines.
Orchard recovered an errant snap over the head of the Fresno State 1-yard line for Utah’s first takeaway since a Trevor Reilly interception in the fourth quarter at Colorado last season. Orchard has recovered five fumbles in his career, which is the fifth-most in school history.
Utah converted the red zone opportunity into a touchdown three plays later on a 5-yard touchdown reception from Wilson to Anderson.
Forty-run rush yards on three Thompson rushes, including a 14-yard effort for the score, was Utah’s second score of the half to conclude a seven-play, 52-yard scoring drive that lasted 1:58.
The Bulldogs’ second scoring drive of the contest was helped by a 53-yard reception that put the offense at the 1-yard line setting up FSU’s second touchdown of the afternoon. The Utes came back with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Andre Lewis, his first career touchdown reception, to put Utah ahead 52-14.
Taumoepenu and Wallace Gonzalez combined for a 5-yard sack, the first career sacks in their respective careers, but on the same drive Fresno State scored on a 42-yard touchdown.
Troy McCormick scored his first career touchdown rush on a 2-yard run and Fresno State scored a touchdown as time expired to set the final margin at 59-27 in favor of the Utes.
After a bye week, the Utes head to Michigan for a Sept. 20 game in Ann Arbor. Kickoff time is still to be determined.