WSU, Utah Utes football: U. not thrilled with how victory over Wildcats played out

Published: Sunday, Sept. 28 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

University of Utah defensive back Sean Smith (left) celebrates with defensive back Brice McCain (right) during Saturday's game.

Courtney Sargent, Deseret News

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.

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