Matt Gade, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah moved a step closer to the state championship. A week after defeating Utah State, the Utes dispatched Weber State 70-7 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. It was the second leg of a three-game non-conference slate that features only Beehive State opponents. They finish things off Sept. 21 at BYU.
Utah athletics director Chris Hill acknowledged that an all in-state non-conference slate is “pretty rare” considering the challenges of scheduling. The Utes, he explained, have a formula that’s a little different than everyone else in the country being in the Pac-12 (nine conference games) and two established in-state rivalries (BYU and Utah State).
As such, Hill said “let’s enjoy today” when asked about the future of another all in-state non-conference schedule.
Weber State collected a $400,00 payday for the game, something that Hill acknowledged was pleasing to legislators he spoke with who were happy to learn that the money was staying in the state. Southern Utah is scheduled to play in Salt Lake City in 2016.
With Utah hoping to play an FCS opponent each year, Hill anticipates another contest with Weber State down the road.
“I don’t think that’s a bad idea,” he said. “You can’t do it every year, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to do that.”
Weber State athletic director Jerry Bovee understands the situation. He noted that the Wildcats usually get about five home games each year and an additional contest close to home is beneficial.
“It’s an opportunity for our fans to get to a home game in essence in the state and I think it drums up a lot of excitement to have an in-state game like this,” Bovee said. “So it’s huge for our program. We love being here and we’re grateful for the opportunity.”
The Wildcats, who played at BYU last season and will play at Utah State next week, are hopeful of getting into a regular rotation of sorts with the FBS teams in the state. Bovee has discussed the matter with athletic directors Scott Barnes (USU), Tom Holmoe (BYU) and Hill. He’s spoken with Barnes about the possibility of getting into a rhythm every three years or so.
“We hope to be in a rotation where we can,” Bovee said. “We hope to be in a rotation where we can just play near home and play one of those games in-state.”
Bovee noted that Wildcats have games scheduled at Arizona State next year and in the future at Oregon State. Ultimately, though, he would like to play either BYU, USU or Utah each year.
“But when it gets down to scheduling it can get a little difficult to make that all match up in the weeks we need to,” Bovee said. ”. . . But once we get going I would love to just be close by and be able to play in-state games.”
NOT SO HAPPY: Just before the end of the first half, Utah scored a touchdown with four seconds left on a short pass from Travis Wilson to Sean Fitzgerald. No big deal, but at the time the Utes were leading 42-0 and they went into their two-minute offense to get the score.
Weber State coaches took umbrage at the Utes extra first-half touchdown as Wildcat assistant reportedly told Ute assistants as they passed in the press box at halftime, “thanks for the two-minute offense” along with some other choice words. Afterwards, Weber coach Jody Sears acknowledged it was upsetting, but tried to shrug it off.
According to Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, the Utes needed to practice their two-minute offense.
“That’s the reason we did,’’ he said. “Obviously the game was pretty much in hand right then, but you’ve got to look forward. We didn’t get too many situations to work on it in our fall camp, so we had to take advantage of that.’’
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