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Crimson Corner: Defense, special teams shine for Utes in opener

By Robert Jackson, Sports Director | Posted - Sep. 2, 2011 at 2:04 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY - It wasn't pretty, but style points don't add anything extra to the win-loss column in the standings.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham described the passing game as "abysmal", and noted that "we won't win a game in the Pac-12 if we play like this the rest of the way."

Utah 27, Montana State 10
It was over when
John White took an inside handoff from Jordan Wynn 10 yards for the touchdown that put the Utes up 24-0 early in the second quarter.Quotable
"I'm so happy right now. I feel good. I've been waiting a long time for this moment. We'll improve. That was just a taste of what's to come." - Utah running back John White IV

There were some bright spots, however, for the Utes in Thursday's 27-10 win over Montana State, the first victory for Utah in its inaugural Pac-12 season.

The first has to be the play of the defense. Safety-turned-linebacker Brian Blechen intercepted two Montana State passes, the first of which he returned down to the Bobcat 8 yard line which set up Utah's first touchdown.


"It was good," Blechen said when asked about his transition from safety to linebacker. "I like linebacker a lot, it was fun to be out there hitting. So far it's awesome."

"We benefited from a couple of big plays by Brian Blechen," Whittingham said.

Utah's defense held Montana State scoreless through much of the first half when the Bobcats managed an eight play, 79 yard touchdown drive to end Utah's shutout bid.

"That is unacceptable. We cannot give up drives like that to any opponent," Whittingham added.

But for the most part, the Utes were able to contain quarterback and preseason player of the year Denarius McGhee.

"We made plays but we had some missed opportunities as well," defensive tackle Derrick Shelby said. "DeNarius McGhee is a very mobile playmaker, but we were able to corral him most of the night."

Special teams play was also a positive for the Utes, who debuted Coleman Petersen as the new placekicker and kickoff specialist.

Petersen, who learned he won the job just two days before the game, was 2-2 on field goals and 3-3 on PATs.

"That was big. Hopefully that carries over throughout the rest of the season," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "It was only one game - it's only two kicks. But that was a great start, and he hit them with confidence. They were crisp kicks and he drilled them both."

"It was the first time I've kicked in a game in a while so it definitely feels real nice," Petersen said.

Petersen, a walk on from Brighton High School, made a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter and 44-yard kick in the third.

But perhaps the biggest positive that came out of the game was the emergence of running back John White IV.

The 2010 Central West Conference offensive player of the year finished with 150 yards on 19 carries, averaging 7.9 yards per carry.

"I'm so happy right now. I feel good. I've been waiting a long time for this moment," White said.

White was pleased with the win, but was unsatisfied in the performance of the team as a whole.

"We'll improve. That was just a taste of what's to come. I'm positive that we're better than this, and we're going to work hard next week, and we're going to get going," White added.

The Utes will review game film and lift weights Friday before taking the rest of the weekend off.

Utah faces the USC Trojans on Sept. 10 in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.


Twitter: @rojackKSL

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