SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Utes roll into the second week of their season riding a 15 game winning streak dating back two years. With the 109th "Battle of the Brothers" against Utah State in the rearview mirror, the Utes are looking forward to their first road contest against another WAC opponent San Jose State.
For the Spartans
The Spartans are coming off a week one thrashing at the hands of PAC-10 powerhouse USC in which they were only down 10-3 when USC imposed their will and finished the Spartans off 56-3.
It is interesting listening to San Jose State Head Football Coach Dick Tomey speak about the match-up with Utah. "We will not know until the ball is snapped." He said. One thing he did know was that he didn't match-up with USC at all and the confidence in his voice during his weekly press conference about whether or not he could match-up with the Utes was lacking.Tomey was encouraged by the fact that through the first 23-24 minutes against USC, the Spartans were right with the Trojans. After that, they weren't. In looking at the statistics from the game, the Spartans only managed three points, eight first downs, and 121 total yards.
USC is one of the best teams in Division 1, and under Pete Carroll has won two national championships. Defensively, San Jose State gave up 56 points, 22 first downs, 620 total yards (278 passing, 342 rushing), allowing 7.6 yards /rush. This is USC that we are talking about, but Coach Tomey has nothing but the highest respect for Utah coming off that loss to the Trojans.
"A team with the longest winning streak in the nation doesn't have a lot of weaknesses that are noticeable, they have beaten teams like TCU, BYU, Michigan, and Alabama, and some of those games haven't even been close," said Tomey.
One dynamic to the game that might turn out to be interesting is the quarterback for San Jose State, or should I say quarterbacks. They played two on Saturday at USC by design.
Kyle Reed is a senior who looks to get the small majority of the snaps. The second quarterback is junior Jordan La Secla. Tomey claimed is his weekly presser that he will play them both until it becomes apparent who the starter should be. That is an interesting move considering that most coaches despise the two-quarterback system. That could pose a problem for the Utes, as they will need to prepare for both.
Coach Tomey was also very complimentary about the overall personnel for the University of Utah. "They have athletes all over the field." He said. "Cain hit two receivers on short 15-yard slants and the receivers just outran everybody."
The Spartans do have reason to be excited, they are debuting a new Field Turf at Spartan Stadium, which holds just over 31,000.
For the Utes
The 109th "Battle of the Brothers" was a difficult game for many reasons. The coaches are great friends, Utah has a new quarterback, and no one really knew what Utah State had and how Gary Andersen was going to use his players. We found out many things about the Aggies, but we also found out many things about the Utes.
- This is not the same team that won the Sugar Bowl in 2008. This is obvious, but it is extremely difficult not to compare a team to the way you remember them. The last time we saw them they were holding a BCS trophy. This is a completely different team and the 2009 Utes looked different. That is not a bad thing; they are simply not the same team.
- Terrance Cain can really play. The question marks heading into the Utah State game did answer that question. It is tough to get a read on Terrance when interviewing him, but finally seeing him run the team, standing up to a rush and delivering a ball on time and getting knocked down answers those questions. Cain connected on his first seven passes and finished the game 20-30, for 276 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Those are very solid numbers and he should only improve in week two versus San Jose State.
- Matt Asiata will carry the load. I remember predicting that Asiata would carry the ball 30 times in the game against Utah State. He was actually closer to 40 times. I think part of that game plan was to yes, take the air out of the ball and run the clock down, and not to run the score up on the Aggies at the end. Asiata did look trimmer, quicker, and faster than he did last year. He needs to be if he is going to carry the ball that much. At this rate (I know there has only been one game) Asiata will carry the ball 432 times in the regular season.
- The Utes have to clean it up! Overall, the first game of the season was pretty sloppy for Utah. The Utah defense doesn't allow 96-yard touchdown runs. The Utes allowed 342 total yards and 221 of them on the ground. There was that one big play, but there were a couple more missed tackles that turned into big plays. There usually is about two or three big plays per game that Utah expects, but they never expect five, six, or even seven big plays. Kyle Whittingham will get that turned around, as the defense will have a much clearer idea of what to expect out of San Jose State.
It is always good to get a convincing win the first week of the season and still have so much to work on. I look for a big jump in improvement offensively and defensively out of Utah. Look to see Terrance Cain get loose out of the pocket more and more and become a bigger running threat. Koa Misi is supposed to return from his back ailment that cut his fall a bit short. Getting him back this week should only help the Utah defense. Look for the defensive line to not make as many mistakes and make a huge commitment to stopping the run.