SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s offense had a season-high six touchdown drives in last week’s 42-10 win over Arizona. The total matched the team’s combined total in games against Washington State and Stanford.
As the Utes enter the second half of the season Saturday night at home against USC, they’re gaining some much-needed traction offensively — racking up 916 yards and 45 first downs during their current two-game winning streak.
“Guys are executing well. We’re playing really well up front and wide receivers are making plays,” said offensive coordinator Troy Taylor. “It’s been fun to watch, and we’re taking care of the football.”
Taylor added that there are a couple of reasons why the Utes are executing better as of late.
“I think part of it is they’ve created some confidence, and it’s a powerful thing. So I think they believe,” Taylor said. “Confidence comes through having some success, so it’s the chicken or the egg deal.”
The guys up front are playing really well and protecting quarterback Tyler Huntley, he said, giving him time to throw the ball. Huntley, in turn, is making good decisions and the wide receivers are making plays.
Huntley has completed 31 of 40 passes for 400 yards in the wins against Stanford and Arizona.
MAKING AN IMPACT: Junior defensive tackle John Penisini has been a force up front for the Utes. Through six games, Penisini has made 18 tackles. He’s made five stops behind the line of scrimmage, including two sacks.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the former Snow College standout changed his body in the offseason and has shed 15-20 pounds. “So he is a svelte 315 now. He is tough, he is active and he plays with great pad level. He has really good natural use of hands,” Whittingham said. “He is strong at the point of attack and he is a slippery pass rusher. I think he is one of the most underrated tackles in the conference."
GETTING IT TOGETHER: Senior punter Mitch Wishnowsky, the reigning Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week, said that the Utes weren’t discouraged after a 0-2 start in conference play.
“Everyone knew the capability we had,” he said. “There were a few plays that didn’t go our way in those losses — that if it went the other way, we would be in an incredible position.”
EXTRA POINTS: Utah will wear throwback uniforms for Saturday’s homecoming game. … The Utes are 3-2 against USC in Salt Lake City. … Utah has outrushed the opposition by a margin of 1,115 to 449 yards. … Huntley is the 10th player in team history to complete 300 passes in his career. He reached the milestone last week against Arizona.