SALT LAKE CITY — Utah kept its offense simple. Against Montana State, there was no need to unveil anything special and tip its hand to upcoming Pac-12 opponents and rival BYU.
Remaining mostly vanilla on offense made for a season-opening 27-10 victory against the Bobcats on Thursday night.
But even with the blowout win, some of the biggest concerns entering the season — problems on the offensive line and how quarterback Jordan Wynn would bounce back from shoulder surgery — remained.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham had voiced concerns about a lack of depth on the O-line and its inability at times to properly protect Wynn. The latter was punctuated in a scrimmage last month when Wynn was sacked 11 times and he and the rest of the backfield spent most of the time scrambling.
After a couple of early first-quarter touchdown tosses, the Utes mostly kept it on the ground, where John White did most of the damage — ending with 135 yards on 19 carries — with contributions from backs Dres Anderson and Tauni Vakapuna (23 and 22 yards, respectively). Utah totaled 183 yards on 37 carries.
The offensive line deserves credit for creating some good holes for White and friends to run through. But it did struggle some, giving up two sacks, muffing a snap and at times not completely in rhythm, especially in the first half.
Some of those sluggish offensive problems were due to Wynn, who at times looked unsure of himself. Only once did he take a shot downfield, just overthrowing his target in the end zone.
Wynn ended the game 15-of-23 with 104 yards and the two touchdowns.
It was the Utah defense — considered to be the team’s biggest strength going in — that came up big. Other than a 39-yard run by Cody Kirk right before halftime and a breakdown in the secondary on the Bobcats’ touchdown, the Utes put up stiff opposition.
Utah gave up 119 yards of total offense to Montana State in the first half, but one-third of those came on Kirk’s big scamper. The Bobcats were able to move the ball more effectively after halftime (with 144 second-half yards).
But Montana State’s comeback attempt was killed when Brian Blechen nabbed his second interception of the game.
Montana State quarterback Denarius McGhee ended with 187 yards on 17-of-30 passing with a touchdown and two picks.
As in many first games, the Utes seemed to show some jitters. But even with some big questions still looming, Utah was able to steamroll to the win.
Unless those weaknesses are shored up, it’s most likely the results won’t be so positive when the Utes face their new Pac-12 foes.
Chris Peterson is a longtime sports reporter, covering everything from high school preps to professional teams. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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