SALT LAKE CITY — It was not Charlie Brewer's first rodeo Thursday night.
Most quarterbacks would be content throwing for 233 yards on 19-of-27 passing and two touchdowns in their starting debut for a team. But Brewer came away from the game knowing he could do better, and he knew there were points left on the field in a 40-17 win over Weber State.
Even with improvement in the back of his mind, Brewer graded out as the top quarterback in the Pac-12, and fifth-best overall passer in the Power Five, in Week 1 with a 90.4 grade, according to Pro Football Focus. But Brewer knows there's more to accomplish and more games to be won over the next 11 games of the season.
"It's good to get a win, but I definitely think that we need to improve in a lot of areas heading into next week, which I think we will," Brewer said after he led his new team to its first victory of the season. "A win's a win — we'll take it — but we definitely need to improve for sure."
Utah's five dropped passes in the game, including two that would have resulted in touchdowns, are just two such instances in which Utah could have been better — and for that matter, Brewer's numbers could have been better with those receptions.
The senior quarterback, who is 77 yards short of eclipsing the 10,000-yard mark in his career, will have a more difficult task on his hands Saturday as he prepares to take on the program's rival in BYU. What worked against Weber State in Week 1 may not be good enough for a Week 2 performance in a hotly-contested matchup where the Utes are looking to make history with 10 straight wins over the Cougars.
Top Passing Grades (PFF)
1. Michigan - Cade McNamara: 91.9
2. Kentucky - Will Levis: 91.5
3. Pittsburgh - Davis Beille: 91.0
4. Nebraska - Logan Smothers: 90.8
5. Utah - Charlie Brewer: 90.4
Will there be a Brewer encore and another Utah victory? Time will tell, but there's enough optimism surrounding the program on the offensive side of the ball to believe Utah has the playmakers capable of extending their win streak that's going on more than a decade now.
Since BYU's game went final Saturday night, Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, like all the coaching staff at Utah, began a repetitive review of the film. The veteran play-caller is confident that if Utah can protect the ball and keep their quarterback in a position where he can succeed, "good things are gonna happen for the Utes."
"It's great. I mean, we've got weapons everywhere, so now that we're finally utilizing every single position, it's great — builds confidence in each room, each group," wide receiver Solomon Enis said of this year's offensive personnel. "Now, you've got to limit somewhere. I mean, you can't guard everybody at the same time, so we've got weapons everywhere, and I'm glad we're utilizing them now."
And though Utah has the weapons on offense — including "best kept secret in the Pac-12" tight end Dalton Kincaid who earned a team-high 92.5 offensive grade from PFF — head coach Kyle Whittingham believes the key to a victory Saturday will be about "preparing the right way." The excitement of the game, the emotions, the nerves, all of that can be overcome if the preparation is right.
"You prepare hard and you play hard; that's a simple formula, it's the most simplistic terms, that's what you do," Whittingham said. "That's not only on the field but in the film room, the weight room, everything that comes with it — getting your rest, hydration. I mean, there's a ton of different aspects to preparation, and you've got to pay attention to all of them. And then on game day, you've got to play hard."
Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley took it a step further to say that for Utah to have success against BYU, or any team this season, the technique must be "sound."
"The main thing is that nothing that is said will ever win you a game — or lose a game for that matter; it's what you do on the field," Scalley said. "It's the technique with which you play; it's being assignment sound, it's knowing schematically where you're supposed to be and then showing up on game day and making those plays.
"They're (BYU) a very good football team," he added. "They're very well coached. And if we don't show up and play discipline football, it's not going to be a good day."
Prediction time: How will Saturday night's rivalry game end?— Josh Furlong (@JFurKSL) September 10, 2021
The Utes have film on BYU, but what it tells is anyone's guess coming into a game with no defined script. In the 100 meetings between the two programs, being the better team on paper means little — even if a 10-game wining streak is on the line. Of the last 20 meetings, 16 have come down to a single-possession game, including seven of the last nine.
"Nothing lasts forever, but we're just approaching it like we do every year and pretty much every game," Whittingham said. "The preparation will be the key, it's not the emotional part of it, or how many wins in a row or any of that stuff. It's just that you've got to prepare the right way and that's your best chance to win a game is through great preparation."
Utah enters the road game (8:15 p.m. MT, ESPN) as the betting favorite of 7 points — another one-possession game. They're also ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, but all of that is irrelevant when the ball is kicked off Saturday night.
"I'm excited. I feel like it's gonna be a very great game," Enis said. "They're a really good team and I feel like we have a very good team as well. The Holy War is always a great game, great atmosphere, no matter what stadium it's played at. Every day, you feel like it's building up to that day that we play and I think everyone's excited."