GAME BLOG: Weber State at No. 17 Utah

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FINAL: Utah 37, Weber State 21

The last time Ron McBride coached in Rice-Eccles Stadium he was carried off the field after defeating in-state rival BYU in 2002. This time he was not so lucky. His Weber State Wildcats (3-2, 1-0 Big Sky) were defeated by the No. 17 Utah Utes (5-0, 2-0 MWC) 37 - 21 on Saturday. Utah quarterback Brian Johnson rebounded from his sub par performances in previous games by throwing 18-22 for 194 yards and 2 TDS in 3 quarters of play.

The Utes' impressive run defense continues to hold teams well below their rushing averages, as they held Weber State to just 56 yards rushing.

However, all of the great plays Utah's defense made may be overshadowed by giving up two touchdown passes late in the game. Because this game was not televised, pollsters only have the final score and stats to look at, and this game was not as close as the final score indicates. Don't be too surprised to see the Utes fall or stay the same in the polls.

Weber State QB Cameron Higgins scorched the Ute secondary, especially when going up against Utah's second team defense. Higgins went 24-38 for 303 yards and 3 touchdowns, including 2 in the forth quarter. The only mistake he made all night was fumbling it in the third quarter after being hit by Ute LB Nai Fotu.

0:12 4th Quarter
Utah WR Aiona Key makes his first catch as a Ute, hauling in a 19 yard pass from Corbin Louks. Utah's second team offense stalls and is forced to punt.

The Wildcat offense has again moved down deep into Utah's territory, aided by a controversial pass interference call in the end zone. Higgins hit his go to guy, Bryant Eteuati, for a 7 yard TD pass. The drive went 10 plays covering 89 yards. This may cost the Utes in the polls. Not only will they not move up, they may fall as voters around the country will only see the final score.

Score: Utah 37, Weber State 21

6:41 4th Quarter
Weber State's offense was easily able to move the ball down the field against Utah's second team defense. The Wildcats went 80 yards in 8 plays to make the score look closer than it really was. Higgins hit Cody Nakamura 8 yards out for the TD.

Score: Utah 37, Weber State 14

10:13 4th Quarter
The Utes have their backups in the game now. This will give QB Chad Manis great game experience here against a solid Weber State defense. Expect Utah to chew up as much time as they can on this drive.

Eddie Wide (RB) is churning out first downs for the Utes. Chad Manis has looked solid on short passes so far, with his only long attempt flying well over the head of intended WR John Peel.

With Sakoda's 38 yard field goal, he breaks the previous Utah scoring record of 235 points (238). The make was also his 45th career field goal make.

Score: Utah 37, Weber State 7

1:51 3rd Quarter
As if things couldn't go any worse for the Wildcats, they do! After a nice run from QB Cameron Higgins, he was hit by Koa Misi, forcing a fumble which was recovered by Greg Newman. The Utes have great field position deep in Weber State territory.

Utah is easily able to punch it into the end zone 5 plays later on a 1 yard run by Ute RB Matt Asiata. The highlight of the drive was a 19 yard run by Utah QB Corbin Louks.

Louie Sakoda has now tied the career scoring record at the U (235 points).

Score: Utah 34, Weber State 7

6:09 3rd Quarter
Not the start the Wildcats were looking for. Nai Fotu forced a fumble off of what appeared to be a nice 1st down pass from Higgins on just the second play of the half.

After driving down inside the Wildcat 10 yard line, Brian Johnson has a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage, giving Wildcat CB Josh Morris an easy interception.

The Wildcats get a first down by getting the ball to speedy receiver Bryant Eteuati. Utah's defense stiffened on the next 3 plays, forcing a Wildcat punt by Mike Snoy.

The Utah was able to move the ball down into Weber State territory, but a questionable no call on a 3rd down pass intended for Bradon Godfrey in the end zone forces Utah to settle for a field goal. Louie Sakoda makes the attempt from 47 yards out.

Score: Utah 27, Weber State 7

Halftime: Utah 24, Weber State 7

Utah QB Brian Johnson is playing a great game so far. Johnson went 16-18 for 175 yards and 2 TDs in the half. The running game has yet to make the 'big' play, although the 3 yard and a cloud of dust strategy is wearing down the Wildcats front four. I have been really impressed with the play of Weber State QB Cameron Higgins. When he has the time, he has been able to create plays with his arm. He went 10-15 for 124 yards in the first half. Knowing that he is only a sophomore, the Wildcats have a bright future with Higgins playing QB.

Utah's defense has adjusted well, not allowing the Wildcats in Utah territory since their TD drive in the 1st quarter.

What to look for in the second half from Utah
Look for the Utes to continue the dominance seen in the 2nd quarter. If Utah doesn't play 'prevent offense', the Utes should score 2-3 TDs in the third quarter before putting the backups in for some great game experience.

What to look for in the second half from Weber State
It is not quite panic time for the Wildcats, but they need to get something done quickly to recapture some of the momentum. Look for the Wildcats to continue stretching the Ute defense with the long ball. WR Bryant Eteuati seems to be Higgins go to guy; I expect that to continue in the 2nd half. If Weber State doesn't score on either of their first 2 possessions in the second half, it will be a long 2nd half for the Wildcats.

0:43 2nd Quarter
Weber State did a nice job of converting a third and long with a pass from Higgins to WR Bryant Eteuati. He has 5 catches for over 50 yards so far.

Utah CB Sean Smith is playing great cover defense out there, knocking the ball down on a critical third down attempt for the Wildcats. Wildcats are forced to punt.

Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is calling a good game so far. With Utah's speed advantage at wide receiver, the Wildcat CB's are playing 10 yards off the line, allowing Utah to continue to throw the short pass effectively.

On the drive, Brian Johnson went 8-8, throwing a 10 yard TD pass to WR Bradon Godfrey.

Score: Utah 24, Weber State 7

8:08 2nd Quarter
The Utah defense has stepped up here in the 2nd quarter. If given the time, Weber State QB Cameron Higgins was making plays moving the Wildcats down the field. The Utes are now finding ways to put pressure on the Wildcats. Two consecutive sacks by Greg Newman and R.J. Stanford forced Weber State to a 4th and over 30 yards.

After a bad punt by Weber State punter Mike Snoy, Utah takes over deep in Wildcat territory. The Utes are forced to a 3-out with the great field position, but Sakoda makes a 33 yard field goal to give Utah 3 points.

Score: Utah 17, Weber State 7

12:42 2nd Quarter
Brian Johnson is putting on a passing clinic against the Wildcats. On the drive, Johnson went 4-4, throwing passes of 9, 11, 25 and 6 yards, with the last being a 6 yard TD pass to Utah TE Colt Sampson.

With Sakoda's successful extra point, he has now tied the school record for career kicking points (227).

Score: Utah 14, Weber State 7

End 1st Quarter
Weber State drives down the field with relative ease against the Utes. Aided by a 15 yard pass interference penalty against Utah Safety Robert Johnson, the Wildcats drive the length of the field in 5 plays, holding the ball for only 2 minutes. The drive is capped off with a 35 yard TD pass from Cameron Higgins to #81 Tim Toone.

Utah KR David Reed returns it 29 yards, fumbles it, but luckily recovers his own fumble. Utes have the ball near the 40 yard line.

Score: Utah 7, Weber State 7

2:59 1st Quarter
Johnson is finally able to get some time in the pocket, allowing him to complete a nice downfield pass to Chris Joppru. Utah goes to the trick plays early in the game and it pays off for the Utes. Jeremy Brooks threw a pass out to Utah QB Corbin Louks, and while the pass was thrown a little ahead of Louks, he made a nice stretch to reach out and catch the ball, then scampered all the way down to the Weber State 1 yard line for a gain of 33 on the pass.

Matt Asiata then punched it in from 1 yard out, giving the Utes the lead. Sakoda's successful extra point marks the 100th extra point make in his Utah career.

Score: Utah 7, Weber State 0

6:51 1st Quarter
Weber State won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. Utah was able to move the ball down the field, but the drive stalled with Weber State forcing Brian Johnson out of the pocket multiple times with no receivers open.

A huge 15 yard face mask aids a Weber State drive, they now have great field position near midfield.

Weber State QB Cameron Higgins is throwing perfect passes out there. If it wasn't for a great defensive play, Wildcats would be up 7 at this point. Higgins completed a 22 yard pass to Bryant Eteuati down inside the Utah 30 yard line.

Weber State kicker Mike Snoy misses a 36 yard field goal. A missed scoring opportunity for the Wildcats as they had 2 TD passes just inches away from completion.

Score: Weber State 0, Utah 0

Pregame thoughts and questions
It will be former Utah head coach Ron McBride's first official return to Rice-Eccles Stadium since defeating BYU in 2002 (he attended the 2006 Utah/BYU game, but as a fan). However, don't expect this to be much of a factor other than being a nice story line to talk about before the game. Utah should win this game by a large margin. Don't be surprised to see this one over by halftime.

The biggest question going into this game is whether or not Utah will be overlooking the Wildcats to next Thursday's showdown with PAC-10 foe Oregon State. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has been stressing to his players the importance of not overlooking any team on their schedule, including Weber State.

My Prediction
I predict this game to be competitive at the start, with Weber State and Utah trading off 2 touchdowns each in the first quarter. After some defensive adjustments for the Utes, expect Utah to control both sides of the ball. Weber State won't even get into Utah territory again until late in the 4th quarter with Utah's 3rd string defense out on the field. MY PREDICTION: Utah 45, Weber State 17. Let me know what you think. Post your predictions/questions in the comment board.

Keys to the Game for Utah

  • Protect the ball - Utah can't give Weber State short fields due to turnovers
  • Protect Brian Johnson - the Utes have allowed 12 sacks already so far this season.
  • Put the game away early - don't let the Wildcats hang around in this one

Keys to the Game for Weber State

  • Stretch the defense - let Higgins throw the deep ball a few times in this one
  • Put pressure on Brian Johnson - opponents have sacked Johnson 12 times already this season (in addition to forcing multiple turnovers)
  • Keep it close - match points with the Utes throughout the game, giving them a chance to win late in the 4th quarter

Game Notes: Week 5 Weber State (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky) at No. 17 Utah (4-0, 2-0 MWC) Date: Saturday, Sept. 27
Where: Salt Lake City, Utah (Rice-Eccles Stadium/45,017 FieldTurf)
Kickoff: 6 p.m. MDT
TV: None
Radio: 700 AM; 1430 AM
Series history: Utah leads 2-0

Utah Miscellaneous Stats

  • Utah is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2004.
  • Running back Darrell Mack was named the MWC co-Offensive Player of the Week for his 101-yard, three touchdown game against Air Force. Mack scored Utah's final three touchdowns, including the game-winner with 0:58 left.
  • Utah is 30-0 all-time against current Big Sky Conference members and 2-0 against Weber State.
  • The last time Utah played a team from the Big Sky Conference was in 2006—a 45-7 Utah victory over Northern Arizona.
  • Today's game is Homecoming for Utah; Utah is 53-30-4 all-time in Homecoming games.
  • Asiata (116) and Mack (101) each rushed for over 100 yards against Air Force. It was the first time this season a Utah player reached the century mark. It was also the first time Utah had a pair of 100-yard rushers in a game since Mack and Ray Stowers ran over 100 yards against Colorado State in 2007.
  • Three of Utah's top five tacklers are linemen: DE Koa Misi leads the team with 25 tackles, DE Paul Kruger is second with 24 stops, and DT Greg Newman is tied for fifth (17).
  • Utah ranks third in the nation in total defense (199.50), sixth in pass defense (138.25) and 10th in rushing defense (61.25). The Utes also rank second in the nation in opponent first downs (43) and tackles for loss (9.75).
  • Utah leads the league in pass defense (138.25) and opponent fourth down conversion rate (25%). Utah ranks second in the league in rushing defense (61.25), total defense (199.50), pass efficiency defense (104.8), opponent third down conversion rate (28.6) and opponent first downs (43).

Utah Injury Report Update

  • RB Darrell Mack (turf toe), probable
  • OL Robert Conley (knee injury), doubtful
  • LB Koa Misi (ankle), probable

Weber State Miscellaneous Stats

  • Weber State head coach, Ron McBride, enters his 4th season as head coach the Wildcats. In 2005 he guided the Wildcats to a 6-5 (.545) record overall and a 4-3 (.571) mark in Big Sky Conference play. Last year the Wildcats were 5-6 overall and 4-4 in Big Sky play.
  • Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins (6-2, 195 Soph. / Hawai'i Kai, Oahu, Hawai'i) has been named the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week and teammate J.D. Folsom (6-3, 235 Sr. SLB / Salmon, Idaho) has been named the Defensive Player of the Week. . . . Higgins completed 21-33-0 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns in WSU's 32-27 road win at Sacramento State to open Big Sky Conference play. He also rushed two times for eight yards and scored on a one-yard touchdown run. Higgins was named the league's Co-Offensive Player last week and marks the third time in his brief career he has been named player of the week in the Big Sky. . . . Folsom had 14 tackles in the game, five unassisted and a forced fumble. It is the first time in his career he has been named player of the week in the Big Sky.
  • n 47 seasons of playing on the four-year level, Weber State is a combined 3-39-0 (.071) against teams in the old NCAA Division I level, now Division I BCS. ... The Wildcats are 0-1 this season vs. BCS teams having dropped a 36-17 game on Sept. 6 @Hawai'i.
  • Weber State is a collective 2-17-0 overall against schools from the current Mountain West Conference.
  • Weber State quarterback CAMERON HIGGINS is the NCAA Division I FCS Passing Efficiency leader through four games in 2008.
  • Weber State is tops in the Big Sky Conference in RED ZONE scoring, and third in RED ZONE defense. ... The Wildcats are 19-20 (.950) in their scoring chances inside the opponents' 20-yard line and have allowed opponents' 9-11 (.818).

Weber State Head Coach Ron McBride Quotes
ON UTAH: "They will without a doubt the quickest team on both sides of the ball we will see all year, especially their defense. Coach Anderson (Gary) has done a wonderful job of getting his group to all run to the ball, and they get there really fast. They are solid in every phase of the game and that's why they are having a great deal of success. Kyle has done an outstanding job of putting the right pieces in place to have continued success."

ON RETURNING TO RICE-ECCLES STADIUM: "Obviously I have a lot of great memories of being on the sidelines there and was involved in many memorable games. We had a lot of good boosters and fans help us out during our stay to improve facilities and to get good players through recruiting. It will definitely feel different being on the other sideline this Saturday."

ON THE WILDCATS "We made plays good teams make when they are having success or make them become successful last Saturday. It was especially nice to be able to play well on the road. Cameron continues to make smart decisions and improves with each game and practice. The offensive line will have its biggest test of the year this week. Utah is extremely quick, so we need to be focused and ready to get physical."

Weber State Injury Update
The Wildcats will start JARED WILCOX (6-5, 280 Jr. / Clearfield, Utah) at left guard in place of LAWAIA NAIHE (6-2, 305 Sr.). Naihe sustained a knee injury in last Saturday's game and will miss this week's game and is questionable for the Oct. 4 game at home vs. Montana.

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