SAN JOSE, Calif.— Utah took new starting quarterback Terrance Cain out for a road test Saturday night against San Jose State.
In his second NCAA game and first game for the Utes away from home, the junior college product sputtered at times, but he showed off his speed and connected on some clutch passes when the pressure was on.
For Cain, Saturday night's 24-14 victory at a three-quarters full Spartan Stadium provided just a taste of what he can expect next week when the Utes travel to play Oregon at sold out Autzen Stadium, one of college football's most intimidating venues.
"As for this being my first road game, I just tried to stay composed and poised and confident," Cain said. "We're already looking forward to (Oregon). We just have to learn from our mistakes and keep working. Every day counts."
Cain completed 18 of 31 passes for 248 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. He also rushed for 76 yards on 10 carries.
"I think he's getting better," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "I thought he played well. He's growing up as a Division I football player."
Cain came up with one of his best passes of the night when the Utes needed it most. With the score tied 7-7 early in the fourth quarter, Utah faced second-and-9 at its 49. San Jose sent a huge wave of blitzers at Cain, but he flicked a quick pass over the middle, hitting wide receiver Jereme Brooks in stride on a slant.
It was the perfect hot read by Cain, and Brooks didn't stop running until he was in the end zone, putting Utah ahead 14-7 with a 51-yard touchdown.
"Jereme ran a great route," Cain said. "It was one-on-one. I just had to do my job and get the ball to him. I know he's a playmaker. He's going to make the right play, and that's what he did."
After San Jose punted, Cain marched the Utes to another touchdown. Cain hit wide receiver David Reed for 12 yards on third-and-10 and wide receiver John Peel for 11 yards to the Spartans' 30 on third-and-6. Two plays later, Eddie Wide scored on a 15-yard run.
Cain debuted last week at home against Utah State and completed his first seven passes and wound up throwing for 286 yards and two scores, completing 20-or-30 passes.
He got off to another fast start against San Jose State, marching the Utes 77 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown on their first drive.
Cain accounted for 67 of those 77 yards, throwing for 36 and running for 31. He gained 30 of those rushing yards on a third-and-12 scramble, darting left, cutting back to the middle and racing all the way to the Spartans' 49.
Against Utah State, Cain rushed only five times for 22 yards. This time, he quickly showed off his good wheels, both scrambling and on the option. He rushed for 46 yards on 7 carries in the first half and added a 25-yard dash in the third quarter, turning a near sack into a big gain.
"He does have a lot of quickness, a lot of speed," Whittingham said. "The plan going in was to utilize that. He bailed us out two or three times."
On back-to-back plays late in the opening drive, Cain kept the ball on the option and gained 6 yards then 7, both times going to his right. Then on the next play, Cain showed off his throwing touch. He lofted a perfect pass down the right sideline over Spartans cornerback Devin Newsome and into the arms of Reed for a 26-yard gain to the 9, setting up a score.
At times, Cain took what the Spartans' defense gave him, making good solid decisions. He was patient and courageous. On one 24-yard catch-and-run by Matt Asiata in the first half, Cain waited until the last instant before unloading a short pass over the middle as a Spartan buried him.
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At other times, however, Cain reminded the 23,684 at Spartan Stadium showed that he's barely removed from Blinn Community College. Late in the second quarter on a third-and-10 from the Spartans' 38, Cain tried to hit Peel over the middle. Spartans linebacker Justin Cole cut in front and should have intercepted, but the ball clanked off his hands.
The small crowd was loud at times, but nothing like the one he'll face at Oregon. Even so, Whittingham said just playing on the road was a good experience for Cain.
"It's not like Autzen Stadium, but it's a road game in front of an opponent's crowd. Every experience he has is going to make him better," Whittingham said. "That's what he needs. He needs to just go through the process and experience everything."