As far as postgame victory celebrations are concerned, 17th-ranked Utah has had better.
Saturday's 37-21 victory over Weber State was followed by subdued activity on and off the field. In the press conference following the game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, a reporter even told the players they were acting as though they had been defeated.
"We obviously don't feel like we lost. But we didn't play to our capabilities, to our best," said quarterback Brian Johnson. "You only get 12 or 13 chances at this and you want to make the most of every one."
The Utes, he added, did come away with some positives. They're 5-0 entering next Thursday's home game against Oregon State. The Beavers are coming off an upset win over top-ranked USC.
"Right now everybody's not feeling great and we shouldn't be feeling great. We want to come out and play well every week," said Johnson, who completed 18 of 22 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns in three quarters of action. "That's what we expect of ourselves and I think that's what we expect of each other. We've just got to come out and do a better job Thursday night."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged that Utah's focus has already shifted to Oregon State. However, he insists that wasn't the case before facing Weber State noting that the Utes would have liked to have won by 40 or 50 points.
"It didn't happen. Weber State is a good football team. Give them credit," Whittingham said. "I think that they've got a chance in the Big Sky to do some good things."
The Wildcats wound up with 359 yards of total offense, much of it coming against Utah's second unit which gave up two late touchdowns. Otherwise, Whittingham felt the Utes gave just an "average performance" in their homecoming game.
"We got the win. We'd like to play great every week. I think every team in the country would like to play great every week," Whittingham said. "But no team does. We certainly would have liked to play better. But we're five weeks in and we're 5-0."
That's the bottom line, he said, while insisting the national polls aren't on his mind.
"I don't care about that," Whittingham said when asked how the margin of victory would be received by voters. "If we cared about that we would have kept trying to score."
The Utes, he continued, opted for a long-term approach to keep their starters healthy and give experience to others. The rankings are secondary.
"We can't really worry about that," Johnson said. "Everything will kind of shake itself out."
Utah led 24-7 at halftime. The Utes pulled away with a strong second quarter. The offense tallied three scoring drives and the defense held the Wildcats to just 25 yards and two first downs.
"We were very productive in the second quarter," Whittingham said. "Much more than probably any of the other quarters as a team."
A 6-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Colt Sampson provided the go-ahead score with 12:42 left in the half.
Before the quarter was complete, Utah added to its 14-7 lead. A 33-yard field goal by Louie Sakoda and a 10-yard TD toss from Johnson to Bradon Godfrey provided the Utes with some breathing room.
Weber State, however, wasn't as fortunate at that point. The Wildcats were smothered on their first drive in the second quarter. Quarterback Cameron Higgins was sacked on back-to-back plays by defensive tackle Greg Newman and nickel back R.J. Stanford for a net loss of 24 yards. Their next possession wasn't much better. Two false start penalties and a pair of incomplete passes stymied a six-play drive and led to a punt.
Things didn't change much in the third quarter.
Weber State turned the ball over twice on fumbles by Higgins. Nai Fotu forced the first one and it was recovered by Mike Wright. Koa Misi knocked the second one loose and Greg Newman pounced on it.
Though the Utes came close to doing so, they failed to capitalize on both recoveries.
Weber State safety Scotty Goodloe put an end to Utah's first possession of the half by intercepting a Johnson pass on the 1-yard line.
The Wildcats, however, eventually punted the ball away. The Utes then responded with a 47-yard field goal by Sakoda to make it 27-7. They scored a touchdown after the next fumble recovery marching 41 yards on five plays to increase their lead. Matt Asiata capped things off with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Utah's advantage swelled to 37-7 early in the fourth when Sakoda connected on a 38-yard field goal.
It stayed that way until Weber State's last two possessions. The Wildcats scored two touchdowns on the Utes' reserves to provide a cosmetic finish. A 9-yard touchdown pass from Higgins to Cody Nakamura with 6:41 left to play was followed by a 7-yard scoring strike from Higgins to Bryant Eteuati with 12 seconds to go.
"Our guys made some plays and got the ball back," said Weber State coach Ron McBride, who coached the Utes from 1990-2002 and received a standing ovation after taking the field. "Higgins did a good job for us. Like I told our guys, we can play with these guys because we just did."
The score was tied at 7-7 after one quarter of play.137 comments on this story
Utah got on the board first, using a little trickery to move into scoring position. A 33-yard pass from receiver Jereme Brooks to backup quarterback Corbin Louks, off a reverse that included handoffs to Elijah Wesson and Brooks, set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Asiata.
Sakoda followed with the 100th PAT of his career to make it 7-0 with 2:59 remaining.
Weber State erased the deficit just over two minutes later when Cameron Higgins teamed with Tim Toone on a 35-yard scoring strike and Jon Williams added the extra point.The Wildcats had a chance to take the game's first lead midway through the quarter but a 36-yard field-goal attempt by Williams was wide right.