We are so ready for Pac-12 play. We’ve been warming up and it’s going to be fun. —Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley
SALT LAKE CITY — It may have been late when Utah completed its 54-16 win over San Jose State Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Even so, it wasn’t too early to talk about the rest of the season.
The Utes (3-0) open Pac-12 play Friday (8:30 p.m., FS1) at Arizona.
“That’s really our entire focus and our main focus,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who added that he’s eager to get things going and see where his team stacks up.
Whittingham noted that a lot of progress was made in the non-conference finale. Penalties were reduced and solid numbers were posted on offense, defense and special teams.
“We are so ready for Pac-12 play,” said quarterback Tyler Huntley, who finished with 341 yards passing and four touchdowns against the Spartans. “We’ve been warming up and it’s going to be fun.”
The Utes racked up 501 yards of total offense and 29 first downs. Wide receiver Darren Carrington II had another strong outing, catching nine passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns. Raelon Singleton had a TD reception as well. Running backs Zack Moss and Devonta’e Henry-Cole added rushing scores.
“The key was to spread it around to our playmakers,” Huntley said. “It just happened to come out that way.”
Carrington II added that the offense has been making strides over victories against North Dakota, BYU and San Jose State.
“We will only keep going from here,” Carrington II said.
Utah’s offense does have room for improvement. The Utes lost two fumbles and Huntley was intercepted once.
Kicker Matt Gay continued to be a bright spot. The former UVU soccer player made all four field goals he attempted, including two of 50 yards or greater. He also connected on six PATs.
Punt returner Boobie Hobbs made quite an impact with a career-high 95 yards on three returns.
The defense excelled, too. The Utes stuffed the run, surrendering just 30 yards on 37 rushes. That led to San Jose State converting on only 1 of 13 third-down situations.
“Just like always we stopped the run,” said linebacker Sunia Tauteoli, “That’s what we do.”
Tauteoli and safety Marquise Blair led Utah with seven tackles each. Collectively, the Utes broke up seven passes and made seven stops behind the line of scrimmage. They made five sacks, forced four fumbles, made three fumble recoveries and intercepted two passes.
“We knew coming into this game we wanted to really focus on the pass rush and cause some havoc on the QB,” said defensive end Kylie Fitts, who made two sacks and forced a fumble.
Utah’s takeaways included fumble recoveries by Bradlee Anae, Nick Heninger and John Penisini. The interceptions were made by Tauteoli and Julian Blackmon.
Whittingham said the defense played very well except for a few snaps.
Despite having things to work on, confidence is understandably high as the Utes enter conference play.
“Right now, we are itching to play a Pac-12 team and get it started,” Anae said.
EXTRA POINTS: The Utes moved up to No. 21 in the coaches poll and No. 23 in the Associated Press rankings . . . Huntley is the first Utah quarterback since Brian Johnson in 2008 to have back-to-back 300-yard passing games . . . Carrington II topped 100 yards receiving for the third straight game. The last Ute receiver to do so was Dres Anderson in 2013 . . . Boobie Hobbs netted a career-high 95 yards on three punt returns . . . The Utes are now 24-1 in non-conference games over their membership in the Pac-12.