SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — After dropping a heartbreaker to Florida in the season opener, Cameron Rising said Utah didn’t want to leave anything to chance against Southern Utah.
“The game plan was just to come out and dominate,” Rising said.
Dominate they did as Rising threw for 254 yards in the first half, Dalton Kincaid had 107 yards receiving and two touchdowns and No. 13 Utah routed Southern Utah 73-7 on Saturday.
Utah scored on nine consecutive drives, including eight touchdowns, over the final three quarters against the FCS Thunderbirds (1-1). The Utes had 599 yards of total offense.
“It was good to see guys perform efficiently and make a lot of plays on both sides of the ball,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “A game like this is as valuable for our 2s as it is for our 1s. Helps us know what we have down the line.”
As six-touchdown underdogs, the Thunderbirds weren’t afraid of taking some risks. They started the game with an unsuccessful onside kick that led to a 13-yard touchdown run by Tavion Thomas.
Southern Utah got a break when Thomas fumbled later in the first quarter and Rodrick Ward recovered. On the next play, Grady Robison tied it at 7 on a quarterback draw that went for 28 yards.
“We didn’t flinch and we made sure the next series counted,” Rising said.
Utah didn’t allow any gains of 10 yards or more the rest of the game.
“During our week of preparation, we were homing in on physicality, being dominant and we were truly dominant up front,” linebacker Lander Barton said a week after Whittingham called his defensive front seven soft.
Thomas scored on another touchdown run early in the second quarter. Utah then turned a fourth-down stop of the plucky Thunderbirds into a field goal and a diving interception by Junior Tafuna into Chris Curry’s TD run.
Rising unleashed more of Utah’s vertical passing game, which was absent against Florida, and capped the first half with three touchdown passes to the Utes’ prolific tight ends — two to Kincaid and one to Brant Kuithe. Utah gained 250 yards of offense in the second quarter.
“I think they have us out-talented 10-to-1 at every single position. Every kid they got could eat a bowl of soup off the top of our player’s head across the line from him. They’re all looking down on us,” SUU first-year coach DeLane Fitzgerald said.
On the first possession of the second half, R.J. Hubert took an interception 39 yards for a touchdown. With the huge lead, most of Utah’s stars watched the rest of the game from the sideline.
The Ute defense held the Thunderbirds to 85 total yards despite scoring quickly throughout the game. The blowout marked Utah’s highest-scoring game since beating UTEP 82-6 in 1973.
Whittingham cautioned taking too much from the lopsided game.
“The level of competition was different, so you can’t put all your stock in the numbers … because sometimes things can become masked in a game like this so we’ll need to analyze the film,” Whittingham said.
Southern Utah: The Thunderbirds were overmatched at every position but had a nice moment when they tied it in the first quarter. After two seasons with only two wins, the Thunderbirds are rebuilding and were helpless to stop the Utes once they got rolling.
Utah: Despite a turnover, nine penalties and some missed assignments, almost everything the Utes tried was successful in spades. The starters were able to rest and some of backups had a chance to show their talents in front of a sun-drenched home crowd.
Utah tumbled out of the top 10 after the Florida loss, but should maintain its position.
Longtime NFL players Eric Weddell and Chris Kemoeatu were honored as part of this year’s University of Utah Athletics Hall of Fame class.
Southern Utah: At Western Illinois next Saturday.
Utah: Hosts San Diego State next Saturday night.
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