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SALT LAKE CITY — Coming off their first conference win of the season, the Utah Utes continued their newly found momentum, easily beating the Washington State Cougars 49-6. The game was never really in question, with Utah dominating early on both sides of the ball.
Last week Reggie Dunn impressed as he returned two 100-yard kickoffs for a touchdown. And the excitement continued Saturday as Dunn returned another 100-yard touchdown, making him the NCAA record holder for four career 100-yard touchdown returns. Dunn continues to impress with his vision on the field. He continues to show his value for a team that needs consistent play after a rough beginning to the season.
John White IV is back. His performance in the first half was reminiscent of his explosive abilities last season when the team relied upon him to move the ball. In the first half alone, White rushed for 96 yards and had 18 receiving yards. White also scored three of the four touchdowns in the first half, putting the game away early.
It seems White needed a little push to get things going after his injury at the start of the season. Once running back Kelvin York got the ball moving last week against Cal, it seemed to light a fire under White, who showed off his explosiveness once again. Utah has a difficult upcoming two weeks as they take on Washington and Arizona. White will be essential to the Utes for any chance to beat either team.
Travis Wilson continues to impress as a freshman quarterback. There are still moments — his throw into triple coverage for an interception — where Wilson still looks like a freshman quarterback, but overall, Wilson has shown he has the confidence and the ability to lead the Utes offense.
Wilson remains composed as the pocket collapses and performs his check downs effectively, which is not generally consistent with a freshman quarterback. This is not to say he doesn't have room to improve, but at least the offense is moving the ball effectively. Wilson ended the game throwing for 171 yards on 17-of-21 passing and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 14 yards.
Utah's defense was lights out. Washington State had few moments where they were able to move the ball, but overall, the defensive line and linebackers put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday. Additionally, the secondary made it difficult for receivers to get the ball. While Washington State is a bad team, they have one of the best passing offenses in the conference, but struggled to get anything going Saturday.
Some of the most telling stats were Washington State's third and fourth down conversion rate, which was a combined one-of-14. The Cougars only converted on third down late in the game when Utah was already up 42-0.
While it's easy to say that all of Utah's problems are over, their opponent must be factored into the equation: Washington State is really bad. The Cougars lack a good defense and the Utes were able to easily exploit it. But the Utes did what they needed to do: dominate a bad team.
Utah has made progress and look much more comfortable with the offense led by Travis Wilson. Last week's game against Cal was easily the turning point in the season. Kyle Whittingham preaches about utilizing the players that give the team the best opportunity to win, and it's now evident. DeVonte Christopher and Jon Hays, just to name a few, were not as effective as other players in their positions, and the switch to Wilson and players like Kenneth Scott have resulted in a much-improved offense.
The true test will come next week when Utah goes on the road to take on Washington.