On a day when defense dominated Utah's situational scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium, quarterback Brian Johnson had a pretty strong showing of his own. He completed 9-of-10 passes for 93 yards.
"Brian Johnson was very sharp," said head coach Kyle Whittingham. "When he's in the football game, we're a much more efficient offense. That's very plain to see."
Johnson and most of the first unit saw limited action in Tuesday's 85-play scrimmage. A point of emphasis, Whittingham said, was to find reserves who can play. The twos and threes, he estimated, were on the field for 60 of the snaps.
The scrimmage, Whittingham continued, got off to a little bit of a slow start with sloppy play and early penalties.
Things, however, gradually improved.
"It cleaned up as the scrimmage wore on," Whittingham said. "And we finished pretty decent, especially with the ones and twos."
Besides Johnson's strong showing, other bright spots on offense included Eddie Wide's 32 yards rushing and Ray Stowers' four receptions for 49 yards. Touchdowns came on a 12-yard scoring strike from Corbin Louks to Stowers and a 1-yard run by Wide.
All-American kicker Louie Sakoda contributed field goals from 47, 32 and 25 yards to round out the scoring.
"Offensively, there's still a lot to work on. I felt like the ones, when we were all in there together, we played pretty well," said Johnson, who pointed out that some holding penalties proved to be drive killers. "The bottom line is we've just to be cleaner, and we've got to be faster on Saturday."
The key before Utah's next scrimmage, he said, is to watch the tape and not make the same mistakes again get them corrected.
"I loved the effort of the team," Johnson said. "I loved the way guys were working. Obviously, we've just got to go and execute."
Whittingham is looking for a big jump overall as the Aug. 30 season-opener at Michigan draws near.
"(We'd) better. We've got to take steps forward each and every day," he said while noting that the Utes have a pair of two-a-days and a single practice before their next scrimmage.
"I expect the execution level to be better on Saturday," Whittingham said.
The defense, however, may have a difficult time doing so. They dominated Wednesday's scrimmage by racking up 12 tackles-for-loss, nine sacks and four pass breakups.
"The defense flew around," Whittingham said. "The defense is playing fast and playing with some confidence. They did a nice job."
Left end Koa Misi led the way with three sacks, while safety Terrell Cole and right end Derrick Shelby each made two stops behind the line of scrimmage.
"Overall, I thought it was a good day," said defensive coordinator Gary Andersen, who noted that the several young players were able to a lot of reps. "We ran to the ball well. We looked to be pretty assignment sound with the first two crews, which is something you're looking for in effort now. I think that was a positive. We'll see on film."
The defense, he added, had two primary objectives in the scrimmage making sure the first group is in game shape and establishing the two-deep chart.
"I think that went well. They did a nice job," Andersen said of his decision to let the starters play the first 10 snaps.
It set the tone for the reserves to make an impact. And several did. Six had tackles-for-loss, four made sacks and three broke up passes.
"Today's evaluation of this film will be huge in telling where we sit with the two deep," Andersen explained.
Whittingham said there may be a separation at safety, pointing out that projected starters Robert Johnson and Joe Dale appear to be the top two players at the hotly contested position. He added that the secondary, as a whole, continued its consistent play and that the linebacking corps is starting to solidify. The coach, however, is still looking for two defensive tackles to step up.
All said, though, it was a bright showing by the defense."We made a few plays," said Dale, who admitted giving up a couple as well. "There's always work to do, but for the first scrimmage I think I'm pleased with what we did today."
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