The 18th-ranked Utah Utes bounced back from a huge loss last week to the Oregon Ducks by soundly beating the short-handed Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday at home, 55-3.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Utah’s defense returned
Sure, there are a bunch of caveats here, but the Utes reminded us how great their defense can be after an outing against Oregon in which they were outclassed.
Yes, the Sun Devils are in the beginning of a rebuild under first-year head coach Kenny Dillingham, and yes, they were missing most of their starting offensive line Saturday, and yes, they played with their backup quarterback — BYU transfer Jacob Conover — for most of the afternoon, but still, Utah was dominant.
Consider these stats: In the first half, Arizona State had just 27 total yards of offense on 27 plays, the Sun Devils were 0 of 7 on third down and the Utes had the ball for over 20 of the 30 minutes.
For the game, Arizona State finished with just 83 yards of total offense, picked up just six first downs and was just 1 of 15 on third down as the Utah defense came just shy of pitching a shutout (more on that later).
The offense was excellent
It was immediately apparent that Utah was facing a different defense than the one it scored just six points on last week against Oregon.
The Utes marched 72 yards down the field in eight plays and just over three minutes on the first drive of the game for a touchdown, and they found the end zone again five minutes later to build a big early lead.
Utah did hit a bit of a lull for most of the rest of the first half, as it scored just three more points until quarterback Bryson Barnes connected with Munir McClain for a 20-yard touchdown with 54 seconds left before halftime.
The Utes carried that momentum into the second half as they scored 31 points over the final minutes, and their 55 total points comfortably became a new season high (34 was the previous high).
Other notable high marks: Barnes’ four touchdown passes were the most he’s thrown in a game in his career (with no interceptions to boot) and Utah’s 352 rushing yards were its most in a game this season.
The Utes finished with 513 total yards of offense.
The biggest downside offensively for the Utes certainly was that running back Ja’Quinden Jackson was injured on a touchdown carry and he did not return to the game, finishing with a team-high 111 yards on just 13 carries (his status moving forward is not yet known).
One mixed bag
If there was one area of the game for Utah that wasn’t excellent, it was special teams. Most notably, the Utes allowed a 79-yard kick return that set Arizona State up for its only points of the game.
Additionally, Cole Becker missed a field goal attempt and Utah allowed a return for a touchdown, although it was called back because of holding on the Sun Devils.
On the positive side of things, Becker did bounce back to make two field goal attempts and punter Jack Bouwmeester was solid, totaling 97 yards on two punts.