SALT LAKE CITY—The Utah Utes defeated the Michigan Wolverines 24-17 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in opening game of the 2015 season. Rice-Eccles Stadium held the largest crowd in its history at an announced 47, 825.
The game drew national attention with it being the debut of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, but the Utes quickly made their presence known.
Utah lit up the scoreboard first with an Andy Phillips field goal on their first drive. Michigan countered early in the 2nd quarter with a field goal of their own, to which the Utes responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive culminating in a Devontae Booker 1-yard TD run. That would cap the scoring at 10-3 in the first half.
Freshman wide receiver Britain Covey had a standout performance in his debut, including a team-high 58 receiving yards on 5 catches. He looked to have the Utes’ first touchdown of the season in the 2nd-quarter touchdown drive, but was called inches short of the goal line. Covey also returned a Wolverine punt 14 yards.
Utah senior quarterback Travis Wilson became the first true four-year starter in Utah history to the tune of 208 passing yards, completing 24 of 33 passing attempts with an interception hardly worth noting on a Hail Mary pass to end the first half.
Wilson put the Utes ahead 14 points with a 14-yard touchdown run on an option fake with 5:49 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Michigan responded on their next drive with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that would have ended had it not been for a Gionni Paul late hit out-of-bounds. The Wolverines capitalized the next play with a spectacular Jake Rudock pass-and-catch to tight end Jake Butt from 19 yards out.
It seemed the Wolverines were figuring the Utes out, sending the Utah offense into a lull. The stadium and Utah team came to life when Utes nickelback Justin Thomas undercut an out route and intercepted a Rudock pass, returning the ball 55 yards untouched into the end zone, giving the Utes a two-touchdown lead at 24-10 after a Phillips PAT, and put the game out of reach.
Michigan scored with 54 seconds remaining and failed to recover an onside kick following the touchdown.
The Utes will stay home to face the Utah State Aggies at Rice-Eccles Stadium next Friday, September 11.