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Zack Moss leads Utes' rushing attack with 150 yards, including 86-yard TD romp

Utah Utes running back Zack Moss breaks free for a touchdown against the Weber State Wildcats during NCAA football in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018.
Utah Utes running back Zack Moss breaks free for a touchdown against the Weber State Wildcats during NCAA football in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Earlier this week, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham called Zack Moss “an elite back in the country” and said he would get the bulk of the carries for the Utes this season.

That was the case in Utah’s opening game Thursday night as Moss rushed 16 times for 150 yards in helping the Utes to a convincing 41-10 victory over Weber State.

It didn’t start great for Moss, who managed a pair of 1-yard runs in Utah’s first series of the game, but he got rolling in the second quarter with a huge run and found his rhythm in the third quarter before sitting out the final quarter.

A large chunk of Moss’ yards came on one play midway through the second quarter when a simple off-tackle play turned into an 86-yard scamper down the left side of the field.

It was the fourth-longest run in Utah history, behind Frank Nelson’s 93-yard run against BYU in 1947, Steve Savoy’s 92-yarder against BYU in 2004, and Del Rodgers' 87-yard carry vs. BYU in 1981.

Moss gave credit to the offensive line on the play during which he said he hardly got touched.

He also scored in the third quarter on a 9-yard pass from Tyler Huntley. When asked about that score, Moss, a man of few words, answered, “It was cool.”

Last year Moss finished with 1,173 yards on 214 carries and scored 10 touchdowns and the Utes would love it if he challenges John White’s single-season rushing record of 1,519 yards. The 150-yard night was his third-best single-game total as a Ute.

“I want to be the catalyst for this team every night and be the spark,” he said. “I was able to do that tonight and want to be able to build off of that.”

GREEN LIGHT: Mitch Wishnowsky won the Ray Guy Award two years ago and is a preseason all-American punter this season on many lists. He got off to a decent start Thursday with a 47.7-yard average, including a 58-yarder, but was most noticed for a play he made midway through the second quarter with the Utes leading 24-10.

Wishnowksy pulled in the ball and suddenly took off running around the right end, deking a Weber defender for an 11-yard gain that gave the Utes a first down.

Although many thought it was a called play, Wishnowsky said later it wasn’t.

“The snap sort of pulled me away from my shield and so I pulled it back, seeing that I might be able to run and get the first," he said. "So I just took it.”

Whittingham confirmed it wasn’t a called play and said his punter “has a green light all the time.”

“He runs a 4.5 40 and if he sees something he’s going to take it and he’s been right every time in his career,” Whittingham said. “We do have designed fakes, but he’s got the green light if we see certain looks and he thinks he has a chance to make a play. You saw it tonight, he made a play.”

GAME NOTES: Twelve Utes caught passes, led by Siaosi Mariner and Britain Covey with six apiece, followed by Moss with three ... In holding the Wildcats to just 61 yards and 48 rushing, the Utes held the Wildcats to 10 negative rushing plays in the first half alone ... Whittingham’s record in opening games improved to 12-2 overall and 13-1 at home ... Before Thursday, Utah was 4-0 against Weber State, winning by an average score of 47-13, very similar to Thursday's final ... The Utes and Wildcats are scheduled to play again in 2021 and 2023, both at Rice-Eccles Stadium ... Announced attendance was 45,988 ... The temperature at game time was 87 degrees ... Former Utah basketball player and current Los Angeles Laker Kyle Kuzma was introduced during the second quarter. Also on hand were Utah Jazz players Donovan Mitchell and Royce O'Neale.