Utah Utes, Utah State football: An even dozen

Utes start strong then hang on in the second half to notch 12th straight win over Ags

Published: Friday, Sept. 4 2009 12:48 a.m. MDT

Utah's Nai Fotu sacks Utah State quarkerback Diondre Borel in the end zone for one of the Utes' two safeties in season-opening victory.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the Utes' 35-17 win over Utah State was "something we can build on."

Besides extending the nation's longest winning streak to 15 games (dating back to 2007) and defeating the Aggies for the 12th consecutive time, the 19th-ranked Utes opened the season with several success stories.

Running back Matt Asiata, quarterback Terrance Cain and David Reed headlined an offense that netted 519 yards.

Asiata was a workhorse, touching the ball on 38 of Utah's 80 offensive plays. The senior rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

"That's going to be all season long," said Whittingham, who acknowledged that Asiata is going to be Utah's guy. "He wants the ball and we're going to get it to him."

Cain, who just learned he would be starter two days ago, completed 20-of-30 passes for 286 yards and a pair of scores.

"All things said I think he was pretty darn good in his debut," Whittingham said.

Cain, a junior-college transfer who prevailed in a camp battle with true freshman Jordan Wynn for the starting job, drew a lot of praise from his teammates.

"Outstanding," said Reed, the leading receiver with 10 catches for 172 yards and a touchdown.

Asiata said Cain was "calm, humble and kept his poise."

Aside from one big play, Utah's defense also had a good outing. The Utes stopped the Aggies on third down in all 12 situations they faced.

Whittingham said the efficiency compensated for three turnovers.

"Utah played a great game. They made plays and we didn't," said Utah State coach Gary Andersen. "That's what made the difference in the game."

USU jumped out to a 3-0 lead when Chris Ulinski capped the game's opening drive with a 29-yard field goal. The Aggies moved into scoring position when Diondre Borel connected on a 48-yard pass to wide receiver Stanley Morrison.

Utah's first offensive series got off to a good start when Cain teamed with David Reed on an 8-yard pass. The second play, however, ended with a fumble by Asiata and a recovery by USU's Bobby Wagner on the Utah 27-yard line.

The Aggies, though, failed to capitalize on the situation. They eventually came up empty when a 48-yard kick by Ulinski sailed wide right.

Another two-play drive followed for the Utes and this time around they made the most of it. After a modest gain on first down, Cain completed a 65-yard touchdown pass to Reed.

Leading 7-3 following the PAT, Utah's defense tightened and forced USU to punt. Luke Matthews returned it 38 yards and into Aggie territory.

Four plays later, Cain connected with John Peel on a 22-yard scoring strike.

"You've got great receivers running great routes," Cain said. "You've got to get it to them and they'll make the plays for you."

Trailing 14-3, USU answered quickly. Robert Turbin ran for a school-record 96-yard touchdown on first down — untouched, right up the middle — to put the Aggies back in contention with 5:17 remaining in the first quarter.

"I hated it. But it's a mental mistake and in this game you can't make mental mistakes like that," said linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, who led the Utes with nine tackles. "We got it fixed and we're hoping that never happens again."

The 14-10 score didn't hold firm for long.

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