Last season, the University of Utah football team ranked 73rd out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in scoring offense (26.7 points per game).
This season, the Utes are 25th (39 ppg) among 123 FBS clubs. That’s just one spot behind Stanford, their opponent Saturday.
Utah's offense has been much more explosive, too. If you count receiver Dres Anderson’s 49-yard touchdown reception against Oregon State, the Utes are tied for second in the nation in plays of 50 yards or more.
Seven have involved quarterback Travis Wilson; six have been passing plays; and four have come via Anderson receptions.
Utah could use some more of those plays Saturday against Stanford — and it might just happen. The Cardinal are just the fourth Top 5 team to play in Rice-Eccles Stadium but rank just 49th in the FBS in total defense.
Here's a look at Utah's big plays this season.
Rhett Wilkinson is a project manager for UtahPolicy.com and hails the true-blooded Aggies from Utah. The co-founder of magazine Aggie BluePrint.com, he's been an intern for the Deseret News and other publications. firstname.lastname@example.org | @wilklogan
Anthony Denham 51-yard pass from Travis Wilson | vs. Utah State
Utah’s season opener against the Aggies wasn’t even three minutes old when Wilson and Denham made sure the Utes drew first blood. Wilson’s 51-yard throw to the senior from Monterey Park, Calif., to the USU 2-yard line set up a touchdown toss from Wilson to Dres Anderson. It highlighted a seven-play, 82-yard drive that lasted 3:13. Utah beat USU 30-26.
Sean Fitzgerald 80-yard pass from Travis Wilson | vs. Weber State
Already leading by a touchdown, Wilson and Fitzgerald, a high school graduate in 2005, needed just one play for the second of Utah’s 10 scores against the Wildcats. The 80-yard play came with 5:13 remaining in the first stanza.
Dres Anderson 57-yard pass from Travis Wilson | vs. Weber State
Anderson's 57-yard haul came with the Utes breaking away from their opponent. The junior’s big catch gave the Utes a 28-0 lead with 5:50 remaining before halftime.
Travis Wilson 51-yard run | vs. Weber State
Wilson weaved for the score after the first two plays of the drive went for 36 yards. An Andy Phillips extra point conversion gave Utah a 35-0 lead over Weber State 2 1/2 minutes after another 50-plus yard play, a connection from Wilson to Dres Anderson. The Utes eventually won 70-7.
Dres Anderson 49-yard pass from Travis Wilson | vs. Oregon State
Trailing the Beavers 13-0 early in the second quarter, Utah needed a big play to jump back into the contest. The Utes got it from a Wilson-to-Anderson bomb, drawing within one score just three minutes after a 49-yard field goal from OSU kicker Trevor Romaine. The Utes lost to the Beavers 51-48 in overtime.
Bubba Poole 65-yard run | vs. BYU
After a previously sluggish first quarter, Poole broke loose. The big rush from the sophomore to the BYU 25-yard line helped set up a 36-yard field goal from Phillips. The six-play, 77-yard drive gave the Utes a lead they would never relinquish.
Dres Anderson 74-yard pass from Travis Wilson | vs. BYU
Leading 6-0 against the Cougars late in the second quarter, Wilson arched a throw from his own 25-yard line to Anderson along the west sideline. After his reception, Anderson promptly cut across the field and eluded Cougar defenders until being brought down just 1 yard short of the goal line. Wilson then dumped a pass to Denham, giving the Utes a 13-0 lead they would hold on to, winning 20-13.
Dres Anderson 54-yard pass from Travis Wilson | vs. UCLA
The last big Wilson-to-Anderson connection traveling at least half the field came against the Bruins. The completion finished off a four-play, 74-yard drive that knotted the game at 7-7 less than five minutes into the first quarter. Unfortunately for Utah, many other potential completions turned into interceptions, helping UCLA get out of Salt Lake City with a 34-27 victory.