by Scott Funk (@scottfunk0)
Salt Lake City – It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t ugly. It wasn’t what we expected either. But after all was said and done, the Utes (1-0,0-0) came away with the victory after defeating North Dakota (0-1,0-0) 37-16 Thursday night up at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Up-tempo, pass-oriented offense was what we were promised throughout the off-season. We saw half of that. The Utes went no huddle the whole game, and even though they had 227 yards of pass offense, they ran the ball 47 times for 272 total yards.
Zack Moss had his first career 100-yard rushing game with a total of 128 yards on 22 caries and one touchdown.
“I felt great,” said Moss. “I have been preparing all week to come out and have a great game. We had a good game plan on how to attack these guys and we executed it pretty well.”
Utah’s second leading rusher was QB Tyler Huntley, who ran the ball 18 times for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Huntley also finished the game 23-32 passing for 227 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
“There were no nerves,” said Huntley after his first-career start. “I just had to adjust at the beginning and start playing from there.”
The offense saw a lot of four-wide-receiver sets throughout the game, but Huntley still had his favorite target. Darren Carrington II was “as advertised” as head coach Kyle Whittingham put it. He finished the game with 10 receptions for 127 yards and one touchdown.
“With Zack and Tyler and myself, we have a lot of weapons,” said Carrington. “I think the defenses are going to have to pick their poison when they play us.”
Carrington had his first interview with the media since transferring to Utah late in July. The last time he played in Rice-Eccles ended in heart break for Ute fans when he caught the game-winning touchdown for Oregon, getting his foot in-bounds by less than an inch. This time he was dressed in red, making plays for the Utes; excited for the opportunity to play.
“I am just happy to be here,” said Carrington. “I am very thankful to have another chance.”
Kyle Whittingham thought there was a lot of good, and a lot of bad that came from the game tonight, but knows more work needs to be done.
“As far as us, it was a mixed bag.” said Whittingham. “We did some good things, but we had far too many penalties. Ball security – we were carrying the ball a little loose and that is a fumble waiting to happen. But we moved the ball with 500 yards of offense. Defensively, some real good things, some not-so-good things as well. We’re known for sacks and takeaways, but we only got one of each tonight, so thats got to change. We have to do better on defense with those “havoc plays”, thats our M.O. for many years. It was a good start, it gave us plenty of things to work on.”
The Utes finished with 499 total yards of offense, and were 7-7 in the red-zone – an area where they finished 11th in the Pac-12 last season.
We had some questions answered: Tyler Huntley proved he can run this offense; Darren Carrington is the real deal; and this offense just might work. It wasn’t the high-passing oriented game that we were expecting, but the offense moved the ball – only having to punt once during the game.
It was the first game, and the jitters are gone. But there’s still more work to do. Coach Whitt will meet with the players tomorrow for film, then give them the weekend off before they get back to work of their next opponent.
Rivalry week has officially begun. Up next for the Utes is a trip to Provo to take on the BYU Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium next Saturday night. Kick-off is scheduled for 8:15 MT. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
Kyle Whittigham postgame interview can be found here
Players podium postgame interview can be found here
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