SALT LAKE CITY — Utah running back John White had one heckuva 2011 debut, rushing for 150 yards with two touchdowns.
On top of that, quarterback Jordan Wynn's surgically repaired throwing shoulder held up for a game, the Utes didn't have any turnovers, and Utah's tight ends hauled in 10 catches.
Ask Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, and he'll point out those things as being positives on the offensive end during the Utes' 27-10 victory over Montana State.
But aside from those highlights — and the fact Utah currently is in the top two in the Pac-12 in all offensive categories?
While compiling only 292 yards of total offense against a visiting Big Sky opponent, the Utes certainly left plenty of room for improvement for next week's daunting matchup with new conference foe USC.
"Offensively, we didn't have a rhythm. The tempo was not good for the first half," Whittingham said. "We were nowhere near good enough on offense."
That, he added bluntly, was especially the case when it came to passing. White-led Utah rushed for 191 yards on the Rice-Eccles Stadium turf compared to just 101 yards through the comfortable September sky.
"The throw game was abysmal. I mean, it was poor," Whittingham said. "We threw for a hundred yards. That's not going to cut it."
In his first game as Utah's offensive coordinator, Norm Chow admitted his squad suffered some technical difficulties.
"Obviously, it's always good to win. People don't understand how hard it is to win," Chow said. "But I think none of us are real pleased with the way we executed. I think the effort was fine."
Chow, the former BYU assistant who joined Utah's staff after a UCLA stint, added that he was "a little bit disappointed we didn't do better than we did" in the season-opener. He credited his players for playing hard, but Chow was less than pleased with fumbled center exchanges and an offside penalty in a third-and-1 situation.
"It was a little different for everybody," Chow said. "I thought they hung in. The effort was terrific. We just need to execute better."
That is also how Wynn sees it.
"We had a good start," said the junior, who had two first-quarter touchdown tosses. "But we just didn't finish. Somewhere in the game, we lost rhythm as an offense."
Both Whittingham and Chow said the team will delve into film to rectify the plethora of problems, but Wynn had some specific areas he wants to work on after a quiet night that included 15-for-23 passing with mostly safe and short plays.
"To improve, we have to clean up the penalties and concentrate on our execution," Wynn said. "I have to play better. I can't miss wide-open throws. I'm going to watch the game tape and continue to work hard to prepare for USC."
Whittingham pointed out that Wynn needs to "bounce up in the pocket" and clean up his delivery and not throw off of his back foot.
Wynn started slowly with back-to-back incomplete passes, and the Utes were forced to punt on their first three-and-out drive. But Utah gave itself enough cushion for its first win as a Pac-12 program by scoring on its next four possessions.
Wynn and White each played a part in two of the Utes' three touchdowns, all of which came in the first 18:07.
With Utah's pass attack less than 100 percent, the Utes turned to White to make things happen. The short-and-shifty junior responded by racking up nearly 97 yards in the second half.
"John White was a bright spot," Whittingham said. "I thought he ran hard and he was competing, did a nice job."29 comments on this story
Wynn, who had a pass limit during fall camp, was relieved his shoulder passed this first test — health-wise, at least.
"It felt great," he said. "I got hit a few times, but I was able to get up quickly. My shoulder is stable."