Finally facing a non-Power Five foe for the first time this season, the 12th-ranked Utah Utes took on fellow Beehive State squad Weber State on Saturday at home in their final contest before Pac-12 Conference play begins next week.
The Utes weren’t wonderful early, but they turned things on in the second half and easily came away with a 31-7 win over the Wildcats to move to 3-0 on the season.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Nate Johnson was solid in his first career start
The big development last week for the Utes, of course, was that Nate Johnson replaced Bryson Barnes at quarterback late in a win over Baylor as the team still waits for Cam Rising to be able to play.
Johnson was the starter on Saturday against Weber State — the first start of his collegiate career — and he acquitted himself well enough, even if he wasn’t spectacular.
Johnson finished the day 13 of 21 passing for 193 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Additionally, he carried the ball 16 times for 71 yards with another touchdown.
Perhaps most importantly, Johnson didn’t make any costly mistakes, as he didn’t commit any turnovers.
That said, Johnson wasn’t spectacular against lower competition, as his receivers got a bunch of yards after catches, the running game was good and Johnson made a few decisions that may have been costly against better competition.
The biggest question surrounding the Utes remains when Rising will be available to play as Utah moves into conference action next week.
Utah’s offensive playmakers were excellent
A week after the Ute offense was rather bad against Baylor, it was much better against Weber State Saturday.
Most notably, Utah’s wide receivers — a group that was without Devaughn Vele and Mycah Pittman — were very good, getting extra yards after catches, and some of those plays came at crucial times.
Seldom-used USC transfer Munir McClain broke out, finishing with a team-high 92 yards on three catches, including a 49-yard play and a 33-yard play.
Mikey Matthews, meanwhile, had a 40-yard play on a 3rd and 16 in the second quarter that swung the momentum of the game in the Utes’ favor. Four plays later, Money Parks did work on a 13-yard trip to the end zone.
All of that was in addition to several excellent contributions in the run game. In addition to Johnson’s team-high 71 yards on the ground, Ja’Quinden Jackson had 69, Jaylon Glover finished with 47 and the trio of Chris Curry, Daniel Wood and Charlie Vincent combined for 52 yards on 14 carries late.
The defense was lights out
Utah’s defense has shown in the early part of the season against Florida and Baylor how good it can be, and that remained the case on Saturday.
Weber State got virtually nothing going in the passing game, as quarterback Kylan Weisser finished just 11 of 23 for 66 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.
All game long, the Ute defense either got in the backfield to disrupt Weisser or the secondary made plays to keep the Wildcats from advancing down the field.
Most notably, Utah tallied a pick-six when Lander Barton took an interception 23 yards to the end zone as part of a big third quarter, and then Logan Fano forced a Weisser fumble in the fourth quarter that the Utes recovered to put an exclamation point on things.