Utah looks to build on BYU win when Utes face San Jose St.
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham saw a glimpse of the offensive efficiency he wants during a 19-play, 78-yard drive that tied up most of the fourth quarter last week in the Utes’ over rival BYU.
“That was a thing of beauty,” Whittingham said. “You get in that situation where you have a lead in the fourth quarter, you’ve got to run to win. And that’s what we did.”
Freshman running back Zack Moss, who carried the load in the 11:21 possession that led to a field goal, is expected to be rewarded with his first career start Saturday night when the Utes (2-0) visit San Jose State (1-1).
Moss carried eight times for 41 yards on the drive that took the fourth-quarter game clock from 14:08 to 2:47 before Andy Phillips kicked a 29-yard field goal in the 20-19 win. Moss finished the game with 58 yards on 12 attempts.
“Zach came in and gave us a spark,” Whittingham said. “That was very evident and he deserves a chance to be the guy.”
Whittingham said there still will be competition in practice to replace departed star Devontae Booker, who rushed for 2,773 yards and 21 touchdowns the past two seasons.
But the field is thinner now that Joe Williams retired from football this week because of nagging injuries. Williams started the first two games, but fumble issues dropped him to third on the depth chart.
Moss occupies the No. 1 spot, ahead of Troy McCormick, who rushed 10 times for 62 yards against BYU.
Here are some other things to watch when Utah visits San Jose State:
HANGOVER FEARS: Whittingham and the Utes are conscious they’ve lost the week after their three most recent victories over BYU.
“The key is the rivalry hangover has been a factor for us. We’ve got to avoid that this year,” Whittingham said. “When we played the rivalry game early in the season, it had a negative impact the next week. That’s our challenge — to not let that happen.”
One difference is the opponent: After wins over BYU in 2011, ’12 and ‘13, the Utes lost to Pac-12 opponents Washington, Arizona State and UCLA, respectively. Utah and BYU did not face each other in 2014 or ’15.
TURNOVER ISSUES: The Utes won last week despite six turnovers, including three interceptions by first-year starting quarterback Troy Williams.
“Our main key is taking care of the ball,” Williams said. “We felt like we were doing a lot of right things, and we were able to move the ball. There wasn’t really anything we couldn’t do. Just too many turnovers.”
RARE OPPORTUNITY: San Jose State has lost 20 consecutive games to schools currently playing in Power Five conferences. Since 2007, the Spartans have dropped games to the likes of Stanford, Alabama, Auburn, USC, Nebraska and Washington. All 20 of those defeats were road games, and the Spartans relish the chance to face Utah in San Jose.
“It’s exciting for us to be able to host a Pac-12 program,” Spartans coach Ron Caragher said. “We have a lot of respect for the conference.”
San Jose State’s most recent win over a Power Five school was 35-34 at home against Stanford in 2006.
D-LINE PRAISE: The Spartans are coming off a 66-35 win over FCS foe Portland State in which they piled up 409 yards rushing. Caragher knows the challenge will be much greater after watching tape of Utah’s defensive linemen.
“From an athletic standpoint, they look like tight ends and slot receivers, but they’re 290, 300 pounds,” he said. “Any offensive line going up against those guys is going to have their hands full.”
COMING AND GOING: Having served a two-game suspension after being charged with criminal mischief for damaging a campus police vehicle and building, Utah senior wide receiver and kick returner Cory Butler-Byrd is eligible to play. Whittingham said he wasn’t sure Butler-Byrd would see action in Saturday’s game. Meanwhile, the Utes lost senior defensive end Kylie Fitts to a season-ending foot injury from the BYU game.