Utah football: Ute offense shines in Red-White Spring Game

Published: Saturday, April 19 2014 7:15 p.m. MDT

University of Utah running back DevonTae Booker eludes defenders during the Red vs White game at Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday, April 19, 2014 in Salt Lake City.

Hugh Carey, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — All spring at Utah football camp, we’ve heard how the defense was ahead of the offense, which makes sense since the Utes have been installing a new offense under their sixth offensive coordinator in six years.

For Saturday’s annual Red-White Spring Game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, it was the offense’s turn to shine on a warm sunny afternoon as eight touchdowns were scored in a watered-down game that featured short quarters with many top players sitting out.

In the end, the Red team edged the White team 28-27 as a two-point conversion try by the Whites with 2:19 left to play failed.

But like most spring games, no one really cared who won. The main thing was watching some live football and seeing how a lot of the Ute players stacked up in competition. And what the 12,056 Ute fans, who showed up on a perfect spring afternoon wanted, was to see some good offense.

Each of the five quarterbacks who played had their moments, while junior college transfer running back Devontae Booker had a strong game with 103 yards on the ground.

Coach Kyle Whittingham was pleased overall with the offense, particularly the increased tempo over the previous scrimmage, while acknowledging the defense wasn’t at full strength and running “vanilla” packages.

“It was good to see Dominique Hatfield make some plays, the running backs played hard and I thought each quarterback did some good things,’’ he said. “It was a positive to have everyone but Travis (Wilson) live to see who was really capable of extending plays when everything breaks down.’’

The good news in the quarterback derby, which won’t be finalized until August after Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson joins the team, was that each of the quarterbacks did something positive in Saturday’s scrimmage. The bad news was than none of the five stood out above the rest, and each had negatives either with fumbles, interceptions or missed targets.

Wilson, the incumbent starter who was thought to have a career-ending condition, played in just the first half and finished with 7-of-12 passing for 116 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown to Brian Allen on a bubble screen.

“I was happy with my performance,’’ said Wilson. “Obviously I didn’t play that much, but the wide receivers did a good job of getting open and the line did great. This last week of spring ball we were getting in the groove and the tempo was getting a lot faster.’’

Adam Schulz, who started three games in Wilson’s absence last year, looked sharp in completing 9-of-13 passes for 110 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown to Hatfield, one of the few downfield passes the quarterbacks completed all day.

“I thought it went well,’’ said Schulz. “The spring game is all about fun, and I had fun out there.’’

Redshirt freshman Connor Manning was the other quarterback for the White team and he had similar numbers to Schulz with 9-of-12 completions for 86 yards and a touchdown.

“This was my first spring game, so I was just going to come out here and have fun,’’ Manning said. “We really focused on our tempo today, and I thought we did a really good job.''

A week earlier, Whittingham had been disappointed in the tempo of the offense, but he said it was improved Saturday.

“It’s closer to what we envisioned,’’ he said. “But it’s still a little bit off the pace and we expect to get that remedied early on in fall camp. The guys are starting to understand and get a feel for what the expectations are.’’

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