Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Utah QB Brian Johnson delivers a pass over Air Force's Ben Garland, left, and Ryan Kemp during the Utes' victory on Saturday. Johnson guided Utah to 440 total yards.

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — All things considered, Utah quarterback Brian Johnson has had better halves.

Though he completed 9-of-15 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown in the first half of Saturday's 30-23 win over Air Force, the senior wasn't happy. In fact, he was downright mad after losing two fumbles and throwing an interception.

The miscues helped the Falcons build a 16-9 lead at the break.

"I couldn't have played any worse than the first half. I went in there and told my teammates that half was on me. There's no way we should have went into the half 16-9," Johnson said.

"But we got a chance to battle back in the second half. That's the great thing about football — a tale of two halves. We came out and executed a little bit sharper and came away with the win."

The Utes opened the third quarter with an eight-play, 69-yard scoring drive. Johnson completed both passes he threw along the way.

By game's end, he guided the Utes to 440 yards of total offense.

Even so, Johnson wasn't satisfied.

"It was an unacceptable first half of my behalf," he said. "I can't play like that ever again."

Since returning from an injury last season, Johnson is 12-1 as 20th-ranked Utah's starting quarterback.

MOVIN' UP: The Utes should move up a few spots in the polls this week

They were ranked No. 20 last week, but with losses by No. 15 East Carolina (30-24 to North Carolina State) and No. 17 Oregon (37-32 to Boise State), the Utes should pass at least two teams.

No. 12 South Florida had to hang on for dear life to beat 0-3 Florida International and could drop, but not enough for the Utes to surpass them.

WEATHER OR NOT: For a change, the Utes had good weather for their game at Air Force.

At kickoff, it was 67 degrees and sunny with a steady wind from the south most of the game.

The last time the Utes played here, it was near-freezing as the Utes and Falcons played a game that ended after dark in mid-November. The time before that, the Utes and Falcons started the game under a shroud of fog with fans having a difficult time seeing the field. The 2001 game, on Dec. 1, was also very cold as was the 1999 game played in October.

One big difference was the timing of the game, which has usually been played later in the year. Saturday's was the first game ever played at Air Force in September. Of the previous 11 games played here, seven were in October, three in November and one in December.

NO KEY: Aiona Key, who just joined the team a week earlier and completed his first week of practice, didn't see any action. Whittingham tried him out at punt returner and said he might play on special teams, but he didn't get in on a single snap.

"Next week," he said after the game.

NOTES: Utah has trailed in all four games this year. The Utes fell behind their first three opponents 7-0 and despite taking an early 9-0 lead Saturday, they fell behind Air Force 16-9 at halftime. ... Former Ute basketball all-American Andre Miller was on hand to cheer on the Utes. ... Because of an approaching front, the Utes had the unusual opportunity to have the wind in both the third and fourth quarters. It was blowing from the south all game but switched and came from the north in the fourth quarter. ... Air Force's leading rushers were Kyle Lumpkin with 36 yards and Savie Stephens with 33 yards. Shea Smith passed for 138 yards but had minus-3 yards on six carries. ... Besides Utah's two 100-yard rushers, Bradon Godfrey led the Ute receivers with four catches for 47 yards, while Brent Casteel and Freddie Brown each had three catches. ... Although Louie Sakoda missed two long field goals, he averaged 48 yards on two punts and made four PATs. ... Saturday's loss was the first at home for second-year coach Troy Calhoun.


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