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Utah's Saturday scrimmage lacks explosive plays; Ute defense very strong

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s latest spring scrimmage lacked something big — explosive plays. Chunk yardage was in short supply Saturday morning at Rice-Eccles Stadium as the Utes wrapped up their second-to-last week of spring ball.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “I think we’re very close to becoming a good offense. We have just got to turn the corner, and we haven’t done that yet.”

Travis Wilson completed 10-of-21 passes for 71 yards and one touchdown (off a seven-yard throw to Sean Fitzgerald) in a scrimmage where the ground game highlighted the offense.

Karl Williams led the way with 101 yards rushing on 10 carries. The senior scored twice, on runs of 17 and eight yards. He credited the offensive line for his success.

“They blocked well today. That’s what mostly got me all my runs today,” Williams said. “I just want to give them all the props in what they did today.”

The offense, as whole though, didn’t shine as in earlier scrimmages this spring.

Although Whittingham acknowledged there were still a lot of good things that happened, he said that the productivity on offense was disappointing.

“There were some plays there to be made that we didn’t make,” he said, while pointing out some self-destructive moments like a snap that sailed overhead, dropped passes and two failures to convert on third-and-short during four-minute situations.

“I think we’re very, very close offensively to being very good, but we’ve got to get over that hump,” Whittingham said. “Right now, we’re still knocking at the door but we haven’t been to break through, so to speak.”

The Utes, Whittingham continued, need to keep making progress and rectify some things on offense.

Besides the touchdown runs by Williams and the scoring strike from Wilson to Fitzgerald, the only other TDs in the situational scrimmage came on a six-yard run by Kelvin York and off a 12-yard keeper by quarterback Logan Bateman. Kickers Jamie Sutcliffe (43 and 36 yards) and Andy Phillips (34 yards) added field goals.

“It wasn’t our best scrimmage. We definitely could have done better,” said quarterback Adam Schulz, who completed 7-of-11 passes for 50 yards.” I think we might have came out a little flat.”

Utah’s defense may have played a big role in that. Safety Tyron Morris-Edwards and linebacker Jared Norris had interceptions — one off Wilson, the other off of Schulz.

Defensive tackle Tevita Bloomfield received a fumble and linebacker V.J. Fehoko recorded a sack. Linebacker LT Filiaga had two pass breakups.

“They made some plays,” Whittingham said. “The defense is starting to shape up.”

Despite closing out spring without 4-5 likely starters, Whittingham acknowledged that the guys who are getting work are doing a good job.

“It’s always give and take in spring,” he said. “When one unit gets stopped, that’s good for the other unit and vice versa.”

Defensive contributions were plentiful.

Clint Shepard, Uaea Masina, Travis Still and Fehoko made tackles for loss. Charles Henderson, Joseph Smith, Seni Fauonuku and Masina were credited with pass breakups.

“It went all right, but I think we made too many mistakes on offense, and that’s definitely my fault,” Wilson said. “I had that one interception I would have taken back. But we just didn’t execute as good as we wanted to, and that’s on me.”

Co-offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said that the offense needs to play faster in the up-tempo scheme.

“That’s the biggest thing, and that starts with getting everybody up and set in a timely manner. I think that gives us a huge advantage,” Johnson said. “We’ve been pretty good at it most of the spring. So we’ve just got to continue to keep developing it and working it.”

EXTRA POINTS: The Utes converted on a pair of two-point situations during red zone work. Wilson completed a pass to Kenneth Scott on the first one and Schulz teamed with Fitzgerald on the second. … Lucky Radley and Soni Kinikini rushed for 58 and 47 yards, respectively. York finished with 35 yards on seven carries. … Quinton Pedroza and Delshawn McClellon each finished with four receptions. Scott and Fitzgerald finished with two catches apiece. Seven others had one.


Twitter: @DirkFacer