Defense shines in Utah scrimmage

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The defense dominated in the first scrimmage of Utah's' fall camp, allowing just two touchdowns - both during red zone drills - in Rice-Eccles Stadium Tuesday morning. All-American Louie Sakoda completed the scoring by making all three of his field goal attempts.

By design, second and third string players saw the bulk of the action in the 85-play scrimmage, although nearly all of the starters played. Co-starting running back Matt Asiata sat out with a mild ankle injury and rover linebacker Stevenson Sylvester rested a sore knee (tendonitis). According to head coach Kyle Whittingham, both could have played if necessary.

Whittingham lamented a poor start by the offense, but liked what he saw from the defense.

"The offense got off to a slow, sloppy start before finishing strong," said Whittingham. "Our offensive execution needs to improve. The defense flew around well. Our defense is very fast, as has been the case for the last four-five years. (Safety) Joe Dale and the corners played particularly well. We are still trying to firm up the situation at defensive tackle. Greg Newman is solid, but we like to rotate four guys and we need some players to step up."

Backup nose tackle Aaron Tonga exited the scrimmage early with a knee injury that is not believed to be serious. His return date, as well as that of receiver Collin Robinson and safety RJ Rice, who both suffered concussions in the scrimmage, is to be determined.

Of Utah's quarterbacks, only Brian Johnson (9-of-10 passing for 93 yards) put up relatively good numbers against a defensive pass rush that finished with nine sacks. Defensive end Koa Misi (three sacks for 16 yards) and Dale (one sack for eight yards) made some particularly memorable hits.

Backup QB Corbin Louks completed 7-of-13 passes for 46 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to running back Ray Stowers. Stowers had a team-best four receptions for 49 yards and rushed four times for eight yards. In a deviation from Utah's usual one-back set, he started in the backfield with Darrell Mack in the first play from scrimmage for the No. 1 offense. Mack concluded a short day with three rushes for 13 yards.

Eddie Wide led all rushers with seven carries for 32 yards and a 1-yard touchdown. Trevor Moss rushed five times for 31 yards. Receivers John Peel (25 yards) and Jereme Brooks (18 yards) both grabbed three passes.

The scrimmage included some special teams drills. Sakoda made field goals from 47, 32 and 25 yards out and also punted well. Whittingham praised the work of the kickoff returners, but said he wants to see improvement in the punt return game.

The session concluded with a short scrimmage between the ‘three's.

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Liz Abel, U of U Sports Information Director


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