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Tom Smart, University Of Utah
Jereme Brooks

Something had to be done.

It was the fourth quarter and the heavily favored Utah Utes were mired in a 7-7 tie at San Jose State. An upset was brewing last Saturday night at Spartan Stadium.

"We needed a big play," said wide receiver Jereme Brooks. "It's coming down to crunch time and somebody had to make a play."

On second-and-9 with 13:44 left to play, someone stepped forward.

"I figured why not me?" said Brooks, who caught a pass from quarterback Terrance Cain and ran 51 yards for a touchdown. "I just got the ball and had to go score."

It turned the game around and provided Utah with much-needed momentum to pull out a hard-fought 24-14 victory.

"We needed a big play and that happened to be the big play we needed," Brooks said.

The junior acknowledged it was a tough night for the Utes. Despite racking up 499 yards of total offense, they had trouble putting points on the board.

"It was just a struggle the whole game," Brooks said. "It was frustrating not being able to score when you're moving the ball really well."

Brooks contributed to the success with five catches for a team-high 98 yards. It alleviated some frustration he felt after getting only three receptions in the season opener against Utah State.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he spoke with Brooks after the win over the Aggies and credits the receiver for not getting down about his limited touches.

Whittingham told Brooks that they were going to get him involved and were confident in his abilities.

"He came through and he had a big game," Whittingham said. "He blocked particularly well in addition. That's something that we emphasize a great deal. He did a really nice job all night long blocking."

Whatever the task, he noted, Brooks takes the same approach.

"Jereme is a very confident kid," Whittingham said. "He's very competitive."

As such, Brooks is looking forward to Saturday's game in Eugene.

"I'm ready for Oregon," he said. "We're 2-0, but this is going to be a real test of the season to see what this team is really made of."

Brooks has done well in high-profile games at Utah. He caught four passes in the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama; five in the victory over BYU; and hauled in a 55-yard reception at Michigan.

"Jereme is one of the few guys we have who has proven himself in big games in the past," said Utah receivers coach Aaron Roderick. "I think all the guys respect that about him and everyone respects his toughness. He's a fighter. He'll fight anybody. He's a tough, tough guy — very competitive."

Brooks, he said, plays much bigger than his 5-foot-7, 170-pound frame.

"From the day Jereme got here he's had a lot of confidence. He came here expecting to play as a freshman. He acted like a veteran player from the day he got here," Roderick said. "He's a very intelligent guy, a smart football player and he knows the whole offense really well."

Brooks adapted to the collegiate game quickly. As a true freshman in 2007, the athletic Texan was an all-purpose threat — rushing 21 times for 129 yards and three touchdowns; catching 15 passes for 183 yards and two scores; and returning 12 kickoffs for 267 yards.

In his second season at Utah, Brooks finished with 30 receptions for 331 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score and returned three kicks.

Brooks is the top returning receiver, along with senior David Reed (25 catches last season), on this year's squad.

"He's a guy who is really savvy — a veteran," Roderick said.

As such, Brooks knows it's a long season and anything can happen.

"I think for sure that week-to-week, if I just stay patient and stay confident, that my touches will slowly increase and that I'll become more and more involved in the offense," said Brooks, who is currently third in all-purpose yardage with 71.5 per game — trailing only current receptions leader Reed (169 ypg) and Matt Asiata (148.5 ypg).

Utes on the air

No. 16 Utah (2-0)

at Oregon (1-1)

Saturday, 1:30 p.m., MT


Radio: 700AM

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com