For the second time in three years, Utah saw its season-opener impacted by a weather delay.
Thursday against Weber State, the game was halted midway through the first quarter due to lightning as teams were ordered to seek shelter inside their respective locker rooms at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Play resumed about 90 minutes later.
At the time, the No. 24 Utes trailed 7-3, right after a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by the Wildcats. But Utah went on to earn a 40-17 victory.
“I told them to stay focused and keep their minds on the game,” coach Kyle Whittingham said about what he talked to his team about during the delay. “They did a good job of that.”
Two years ago, Utah opened the season in Provo. Midway through the fourth quarter, a torrential downpour fell from the sky and the game was suspended due to a lightning delay with 9:01 remaining. After the 54-minute delay, the game resumed at 12:05 a.m. in front of about 15,000 fans.
BYU’s offense didn’t even touch the ball in the final nine minutes as Utah relied on its run game to run out the clock. As the final seconds slipped away — the Utes mercifully took a knee instead of pouring it on — Utah fans chanted, “Nine in a row! Nine in a row!”
The 30-12 victory marked the Utes’ ninth consecutive win over BYU and it ties the longest streak for either team in the rivalry.
The two rivals meet next Saturday (8:15 p.m., MDT, ESPN) in Provo.
LLOYD SHINES AGAIN: Utah star linebacker Devin Lloyd did exactly what coach Kyle Whittingham expected him to in Thursday’s 40-17 season-opening victory over Weber State.
Lloyd, a preseason All-American selection and Butkus Award candidate, tallied a game-high 12 tackles against the Wildcats. He had two tackles-for-loss and he recorded a forced fumble, which was recovered by defensive end Mika Tafua, and a diving interception.
“That’s who he is. He’s a big-time player. He’s a playmaker,” Whittingham said of Lloyd. “He’s the leader of that defense and he was productive tonight just like he’ll need to be every single week.
EVALUATING THE O-LINE: Before the season kicked off, Whittingham admitted he was concerned about the offensive line due to injuries.
Against Weber State, the Utes’ starters were Bam Olaseni, Braeden Daniels, Nick Ford, Paul Maile and Simi Moala.
What was Whittingham’s impression of the O-line after the first game?
“You get a feel for it but you can’t see the details of it and why things are not happening at times or are happening at times,” he said. “I don’t think we played well enough up front on my first impression. That’s not to pick on those guys because I don’t think we played well enough at a lot of positions.”
Whittingham is hopeful that Jaren Kump will be ready to play next week at BYU.
CRAZY PICK: Lloyd’s interception actually bounced off cornerback Clark Phillips’ helmet before Lloyd was able to secure it just above the turf.
“I actually told him that he stole my pick,” Phillips said.
Whittingham praised the overall play of Phillips and fellow cornerback JaTravis Broughton.
“There are still things to improve,” he said. “But I feel like we held them in check. It’s Game One. We’ll build off this game.”
TRIBUTE TO TY: During Thursday’s game, the Utes honored running back Ty Jordan, who passed away last Christmas night.
In the first half, the school revealed that Portal 22 at Rice-Eccles will bear his name (Jordan wore No. 22 last season as a freshman). In the second half, a video tribute showed highlights of Jordan. Whittingham narrated the video and asked the crowd for a “moment of loudness” instead of a moment of silence so the crowd could cheer for Jordan, something they couldn’t do last season because of the pandemic.
“That was awesome,” Whittingham said later, getting emotional. “If I think about it too much, I don’t do well. It was great, the in-game recognition of Ty. And his family was here, which was awesome.”
“I thought that was amazing,” Lloyd said of the tribute to Jordan. “The reaction was a beautiful thing. I credit the university for setting it up. It was beautiful.”