Eddie Wide has played sparingly for his two-plus seasons at Utah, but he was thrust into the spotlight Saturday night after Matt Asiata went out with an injury late in the first quarter.
Wide came through with an outstanding performance in his first significant action as a Ute, carrying the ball 19 times for 129 yards. And with Asiata out for the season with a torn ACL, Wide is set to be the Utes' featured back for the rest of the year.
"Tonight, we gave him an opportunity and he did a great job," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "We're very confident in Eddie Wide. He was a great back in high school and was the player of the year in Nevada. He's got a lot of talent — he's just not a 25- to 30-carry-a-night back like Matt was."
Wide rushed for 44 yards as a freshman and 183 yards as a sophomore. In the first three games this year, he rushed for 67 yards on 14 carries.
Before Asiata went down, Wide ran for 18 yards — the longest run of his career. He did little the rest of the half, but he peeled off runs of 25 and 24 yards in the second half. The first set up Utah's field goal early in the fourth quarter, while the second set up the final touchdown of the night.
"I felt I did pretty well," Wide said. "I was just pretty much reading what the offensive line was doing, and they made some nice holes so I just took them.
"You always have to be ready, so when (Asiata) went down, I had to pick up the rifle and keep going."
Wide took over the "Asiata package" and took snaps out of the shotgun with quarterback Terrance Cain split out.
In the second half, the Utes unveiled a new package with Wide taking the snap and Cain coming in motion after being split out. Wide usually faked the handoff and ran up the middle. But one time he handed off to Cain, who threw a long pass that drew an interference penalty.
With freshman Sausan Shakerin out for another week or two with a shoulder injury, the Utes are suddenly running low on running backs.
Sixth-year senior Ray Stowers is available, but the Utes may go to receiver Shaky Smithson, who ran four times for 18 yards in the fourth quarter.
"We're getting thin, so we hope Shak can come back and we'll use Shaky Smithson," Whittingham said. "We'll find a way to piece it together."