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Ute receiver shuns adversity, makes big impact on offense

Utah wide receiver Jereme Brooks rode an emotional roller coaster in the first quarter of Saturday's 34-18 win over Utah State. The true freshman went from one extreme to another in a span of less than three minutes.

The low point came first.

A pass intended for Brooks was wrestled away from the receiver by Utah State defender James Brindley. The interception was returned 64 yards and set up the game's first score.

Before a 1-yard run by Leon Jackson III gave the Aggies the lead, Brooks was approached by quarterback Brian Johnson.

"Don't worry. Shake it off," Johnson told him. "I'm coming back to you."

And it didn't take long to happen.

On Utah's next possession, Johnson and Brooks teamed on a 22-yard scoring strike. Brooks made a diving catch in the end zone for his first collegiate touchdown.

"It was really exciting," said Brooks, who also received encouragement from Utah's other receivers prior to the catch. "They told me to keep my head up. The next ball Brian threw to me I just went out to go get it."

The touchdown evened the score at 7-7 and ignited a Ute offense that had been held scoreless the previous week at UNLV.

"Jereme had a nice touchdown grab and actually caught a couple of balls on Saturday," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "He's got great speed, which obviously is a huge plus for a wide receiver. He's very competitive, a feisty competitor, and that's what I like about him most."

Though a bit undersize at 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, Brooks has met challenges at every level. He was a three-time MVP at Clear Creek High School in Texas.

"A lot of undersized guys have a point to prove. They're told all their life, 'you're too small for this or that,"' Whittingham said. "They get a little chip on their shoulder.

"He doesn't care that he's a true freshman playing Division I football," Whittingham continued. " ... He's been productive for us."

Brooks, who was lured to Utah because of the spread offense, enters Friday night's game at Louisville with six receptions for 78 yards.

"I really didn't want to sit out a year and not be able to play in a game," Brooks said. "So I just came in and did my best to try and make everything happen."

His new teammates and coaches took notice.

"It's been very impressive to watch him develop through fall camp and the course of the season," Johnson said. "He's done a nice job of coming in and making plays. He'll have a fine career here and will catch a lot more touchdowns."

Brooks' first one, thus, didn't surprise Johnson — even after some adversity.

"He did an awesome job coming back and making a play," Johnson said. "It shows the character that he has in himself and how much he really wants to contribute to this team."

Brooks is now part of Utah's main receiving corps. He's helping fill the gap left by all-conference candidate Brent Casteel, who is out for the season with a knee injury.

Brooks is flattered to join the group known as Utah's "six-pack" of receivers.

"It just makes me want to play hard," Brooks said. "Just play good for them and for the seniors — just try to do the best that I can."

So far, so good.

"I think we can improve every week," Brooks noted. "As a receiving group, we can get better every week."

EXTRA POINTS: Senior Derrek Richards, who returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown in Saturday's win over Utah State, was named the Mountain West Conference's special teams player of the week. He netted 135 yards on four punt returns ... Whittingham said the Utes came out of the USU game without any significant injuries. Safety Joe Dale, who suffered a concussion, is expected to be back this week ... The Utes are 5-0 against current Big East Conference teams, including 2-0 all-time against Louisville.

On the air

Utah (2-3, 0-2) at Louisville (3-2, 0-1)

Friday, 6 p.m.

Papa John's Stadium

Radio: 700AM