by Zachary Talbot
The longing for football is no more. Fans returned to Rice Eccles stadium for Thursday night’s game featuring the Utah Utes and in-state FCS foe Weber State. While there was a storm delay in the first half, lightning would strike again in the second half in terms of on-field performance. Utah would go on to win Thursday nights game with a 40-17 final score over the Wildcats. The Utes win was all that much bigger with a special announcement. The University of Utah would unveil that Portal 22 is now know as “LLTJ” Portal 22 in honor of former Utah running back Ty Jordan who passed away last December. The new banner was posted in Rice Eccles Stadium before the start of the second quarter.
Utah opened up the scoring, after a Weber State punt, with a 25 yard field goal by Jadon Redding. On the ensuing kickoff, though, Weber State would strike quickly to gain the lead with a kickoff return by the Wildcats’ running back Rashid Shaheed. He went 99 yards for a touchdown, giving Weber state an early 7-3 lead.
Utah would get back on track after the weather delay. Baylor transfer QB Charlie Brewer lead the Utes to a touchdown. He found Dalton Kincaid for a 17 yard TD pass. That pulled the Utes back on top 10-7.
Both defenses showed big potential as neither team would score on their next possessions. That would end, with the Utes again finding the end zone after a Tavion Thomas 12-yard run for a Utah touchdown, furthering Utah’s lead to 19-7. Thomas, the Utes leading rusher, would go on to have 107 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns.
Utah Defense Holds Strong
Weber State’s offense kept the pursuit on. The Wildcats would drive 74 yards, at one point, getting to the Utes one-yard line. The Utes defense would bend, but would break, holding Weber QB Bronson Barron shy of the end zone on a fourth and goal. The Utes would take over on downs and end the first half.
Weber state would keep the pressure on at the start of the second half. They forced a fumble at the Utah 32 yard line just two plays into the third quarter. Utah’s defense would again come up clutch, as the Wildcats would cap off the fumble recovery with just three points off a 25 yard field goal by Kyle Thompson. This reduced the Utes lead down to 19-10. Then, Utah would pull away.
Utah Offense Starts Clicking
The Utes would go on to score 21 unanswered points. Utes WR Solomon Enis caught pay-dirt with an eight yard pass from Brewer, with the Utes going five plays for 66 yards. Tavion Thomas would put the Utes on the board again the very next possession with three carries for 42 yards and another touchdown. Cam Rising would come into the game and replace Brewer. He hit tight end Brant Kuithe for an 18 yard touchdown to complete a perfect night for Rising. He was 2-2 on pass attempts on the night.
By the Numbers
Weber State would end the scoring drought late in the fourth quarter when Barron would connect with Hayden Meacham for the Wildcats. Barron would end the game going 21/33 for 213 yards. He had threw for one interception, but also had one touchdown.
Utah’s defense was productive on Thursday evening. The “Sack Lake City” nickname held true with three sacks on the night (Lloyd, Pututau, and Carlton) and one interception (Lloyd). The Utes defense held Weber state to just one offensive touchdown. All of the other points came from special teams for the Wildcats. The Utes also only allowed 57 total rushing yards. Weber State running back Dontae McMillan led the way with 39.
The Utes finished the game with 451 total yards, lead by Charlie Brewer going 19/27 with 233 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Dalton Kincaid lead the Ute receivers with four catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
The Utes now turn their focus to a big matchup next week. They travel to Provo to take on in-state rival BYU in meeting number 101 of the Holy War. Weber State will play at Dixie State next Saturday in St. George.
Featured image courtesy Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News