Utah Utes football: Offense excels, scores seven touchdowns during Utes scrimmage
Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s scrimmage Tuesday failed to finalize any position battles.
“To be continued,” is how defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake put it.
The 90-play session did, however, prove to be productive for the Utes.
“It was a good workday,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “We got a lot of work done.”
The offense, in particular, had a decent outing — scoring five touchdowns in the air and two on the ground when the first and second units were on the field.
“Things went really well. I think our offense definitely made a lot of big plays today. That’s something that we really strive for,” said quarterback Travis Wilson, who completed a 51-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Denham before leaving the game with a slight ankle sprain. “Our running backs ran great today and we’ve just got to make sure we keep on progressing here and not take steps back.”
Contributions on offense were plentiful against a defense that played without top playmakers Brian Blechen, Tenny Palepoi, Trevor Reilly and Eric Rowe. Whittingham said they were held out to avoid “wear and tear” as the Aug. 29 opener against Utah State approaches.
Even so, Sitake said the offense did some really good things and deserves credit for bringing the tempo.
“We have to be able to defend that,” he noted, adding there were too many missed tackles and some disappointing missed assignments.
Such things, Sitake noted, provide opportunities to teach.
“I love the way that these guys work and I like the intensity that they bring to the field,” he said.
Co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson appreciated the effort he saw on the other side of the ball.
“I thought there were some very good things," he said.
Erickson noted red-zone passing (three touchdowns) and running the ball (70 yards on 11 carries by Kelvin York) as strengths.
“We’re just not as consistent as we need to be,” said Erickson.
The offense turned the ball over only twice while putting up some solid numbers. Quarterbacks Brandon Cox, Conner Manning, Adam Schulz and Wilson combined to complete 22 of 47 passes for 177 yards and five touchdowns.
Kelvin York led seven rushers in positive yardage with 70 yards on 11 carries. He and Bubba Poole each ran for touchdowns.
Denham topped 13 receivers with 63 yards on two catches (both for scores). Sean Fitzgerald, Jake Murphy and Poole also had touchdown receptions.
Erickson said the offense executed well in a lot of things. He particularly thought Manning passed the ball well.
“He’s really a natural thrower,” said Erickson, adding that the other quarterbacks also had good performances and York was effective running the ball.
Another bright spot came late in the scrimmage, when the threes squared off. That’s when freshman running back Dre’Vian Young scrambled 60 yards through the defense for a touchdown.
Erickson joked that Young probably ran 100 yards to get it.
“But he’s pretty impressive so we’ve got sit down and talk about that a little bit, too — see what he could add to us this year,” said Erickson.
Defensively, there were some bright spots as well. Linebacker Travis Still recovered a fumble and safety Charles Henderson had an interception.
Reilly, a projected starter at defensive end, observed things weren’t too bad — although he noted that third down and red zone situations need to get much better.
“Those critical plays," Reilly said. “We’re not totally there yet.”
The defense gave up a first down on fourth-and-20 and allowed the offense to move the chains on some third-and-5 plays. Reilly is confident those things will be shored up with more experiences and as everyone gets comfortable with the defense.
All things considered, Whittingham’s initial impression of the scrimmage was that no position outcomes were finalized.
“There might have been some switches, but nothing’s been decided,” he said.
Despite limited action, Wilson remains the starting quarterback, and the chase for backup spots continues. Cox was 3 for 10 for 33 yards and a touchdown. Schulz completed 6 of 10 for 72 yards, and Manning was 10 of 20 for 116 yards and three scores — earning praise for his poise.
“Travis is our guy right now,” said Whittingham. “And really the battle right now is to see who is No. 2 and No. 3.”
The clock is ticking. Saturday’s scrimmage will carry a lot of weight with preparations for Utah State set to intensify Monday.
“This Saturday is really the last extensive live work they’ll get. We’ve got to have things sorted out,” said Whittingham. “We’ve got to know the guys who we’re going to sink our reps into going forward at that point and time.”
* * * * *
UTAH CAMP REPORT
Day 8: The Utes scrimmaged Tuesday morning at Rice-Eccles Stadium. They’ll resume two-a-days Wednesday.
Standouts: Quarterback Conner Manning threw for 116 yards and three touchdowns ... Wide receiver Anthony Denham had two touchdown catches and running back Kelvin York rushed for 70 yards and a score ... Running back Dre’Vian Young ran 60 yards for a TD ... Linebacker Travis Still recovered a fumble and had a pass breakup ... Safety Charles Henderson intercepted a pass ... Kicker Andy Phillips made five field goals and two PATs.
Injuries: Wilson tweaked his left ankle early in the scrimmage and saw limited action for precautionary reasons ... Defensive end Jason Whittingham has a broken bone in his left hand but is expected to be ready to go before the opener against Utah State on Aug. 29 ... Cornerback Reggie Porter is out with a groin pull.
Overheard: “I thought there were some really good things.” — Utah co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson.
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