It is what it is this year and we wanted to play a home-and-home and we felt that was the best thing to help prepare our team for the league. – Utah athletics director Dr. Chris Hill
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s first meeting with Fresno State in nearly 15 years proved to be a success for the Utes. They dealt the visiting Bulldogs a 59-27 setback Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Fresno State, though, didn’t leave empty-handed. The Bulldogs left town with a guaranteed payout of $500,000 for the completion of the first half of a home-and-home series. It concludes with the Utes visiting Fresno State on Sept. 19, 2015.
“Our dates matched each other, so it made a lot of sense to do that,” said Utah athletics director Dr. Chris Hill. “They’re an FBS team, so we felt it matched kind of our scheduling process.”
It also helped the Utes avoid an imbalanced 2014 schedule after they added the Sept. 20 road trip to Michigan. Utah bought out a game at Utah State and replaced it with Fresno State’s visit to Salt Lake City — giving the Utes six games at home and six on the road this season.
Hill said he understands some of the concerns that people may have in Utah, essentially swapping Mountain West nonconference foes Utah State and Fresno State.
“We made a choice and we thought that the home-and-home would be good,” Hill said. “We do have a chance to play somebody a little bit different.”
However, Hill also noted that at the end of the day he knows that “we need to play those teams or should play those teams” like Utah State.
“It is what it is this year and we wanted to play a home-and-home and we felt that was the best thing to help prepare our team for the league,” Hill said.
CHAMPIONS HONORED: At the end of the first quarter, Utah honored its 1964 Liberty Bowl championship team with an on-field introduction. The group, represented by approximately 30 players, was inducted into the Crimson Club Hall of Fame Friday evening.
“It’s a bunch of real old, slow men,” joked former Utah assistant coach John Pease, who was the Most Inspirational Player on that team 50 years ago. “It’s really an honor with all the football that has been played here.”
Pease noted that the 1964 Utes were the first team from the state to go back East and win a big game. They defeated West Virginia 32-6 in the Atlantic City Convention Center, prevailing in the first major college football bowl game played indoors and the first to be broadcast nationally. Pease said it kind of showed people that “they must play a little football out there (in Utah).”
Having the team inducted into the hall of fame, Pease added, is a neat deal and the squad is very deserving.
“It was the first time that Utah got put on the map,” he said. “We can’t match what the Sugar Bowl team did or the Fiesta Bowl team did, but I think at that time it was a pretty significant win.”
HOLDING THE LINE: Utah coach Kyle Whittingham made it no secret he was unhappy with Utah’s first-week play on the lines. His complaint: Utah didn’t dominate the line of scrimmage.
For a defense that gave up an “iffy” 337 yards to Idaho State a week ago, things looked much better in a hurry. Utah held Fresno State to just 4 total yards in the first quarter in Saturday’s game.
It looked like the Utes were on track to set a record for fewest yards allowed in a game. That record was set in 1950, when they held Utah State to 42 yards.
However, any record plans went out the window in the second quarter when the Bulldogs ran up 126 yards.
Other sub-100-yard games by opponents were Idaho (58), Denver (78), Arizona (02) and Utah State (95, 98).
EX-COUGAR RETURNS: Former BYU running back Josh “Juice” Quezada returned to Rice-Eccles Stadium for the first time since 2010, but it was a completely different experience.
“Last time I played here was back in 2010, so it was exciting,” said Quezada, a California native who transferred from BYU to Fresno State after his sophomore season in 2011. “Last time I played here was back in 2010, so it was exciting. The experience and being in the heart of Utah, it was fun to be back.”
The senior, who had three catches for 22 yards, said the atmosphere was certainly different in Saturday’s game than it was when Utah won a 17-16 thriller over the Cougars in 2010. “There was a huge difference,” he said smiling. “You know, the rivalry between BYU and Utah is pretty huge, so I don’t feel like the fans were as hectic (today). They’re a little bit more on our side.”
EXTRA POINTS: Utah has topped 50 points in back-to-back games for the first time since doing so against San Jose State (56) and Iowa State (68) in 2010. ... The announced attendance was 45,864 — the 27th-consecutive sellout for the Utes. ... NFL scouts from the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins were credentialed for the game. ... Utah increased its lead in the series with Fresno State to 6-4.
Contributing: Brad Rock, Amy Donaldson