SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Despite having a new quarterback and new
receivers, Utah's passing game looks just fine so far.
Brian Johnson passed for a career best 268 yards and threw two
touchdown passes to John Madsen in Utah's 31-7 victory over Utah
State on Saturday, extending the Utes' winning streak to 18 games
in a row.
Madsen also had a career night, catching eight passes for 155
yards to help lead the Utes to 510 yards of offense.
"He put the ball right where it needed to be. All I have to do
is get open and catch it," said Madsen, who atoned for fumbling
inside the Utah State 20 with his first multi-touchdown game.
Quinton Ganther ran for 104 yards on 15 carries for his second
100-yard game of the season and the Utes (2-0) won the state
rivalry for the eighth straight time. Utah also remained unbeaten
under new coach Kyle Whittingham, scoring 31 straight points after
falling behind 7-0.
"We missed more tackles in the first half than we normally miss
in three games," Whittingham said. "We came back and we were able
to put it away when we had the opportunity.
The defense held the Aggies, who were playing their first game
under coach Brent Guy, to 258 yards of offense and only 95 yards
Utah's offense, meanwhile, flourished like it did in last year's
12-0 season with quarterback Alex Smith. Smith and the Utes' top
two receivers from 2004 are gone, but Johnson and Madsen showed the
Utes can still move the ball through the air.
Madsen topped his career high for receiving yards, set two years
ago against Texas A&M, by 73 yards.
The Utes flustered Utah State quarterback Leon Jackson III in
his first start and the Aggies had a woeful night on special teams.
A fumbled punt set up one touchdown for the Utes and a punt that
sailed into the first row behind the Utah bench set up another.
The Aggies started five freshmen and never recovered after Utah
scored three touchdowns between the end of the second quarter and
early in the third.
"Even our older guys were missing tackles, so I can't blame the
entire thing on our youngsters," Guy said. "We didn't have
pre-game jitters. We just couldn't convert and we lost our
composure before the half."
Jackson was 12-for-25 for 95 yards and was Utah State's leading
rusher with 18 carries for 87 yards.
Utah State led 7-0 through much of the second quarter, but from
there it was all Utah.
"I felt like we got in a rhythm there in the second half,"
Utah defensive coordinator Gary Andersen said. "I think it was a
Fans huddled under blankets in the crisp night and many of the
44,639 attending were gone by the fourth quarter, when the
temperature had dropped to 50 degrees. A few still remained for the
end as the Utes celebrated extending the nation's second-longest
Ganther wore down the Aggies by trying to run over or through
whoever was in his way.
"They opened up holes for me to run through and when I get
through the holes it's my decision to punish them or make them
miss," Ganther said. "Sometimes it's just instinct for me to
lower my shoulder."
Johnson completed 18 of 21 passes and outdid his 220 passing
yards in the season opener against Arizona. Johnson also had a
2-yard touchdown run for Utah's first score.
The Utes scored two touchdowns in the final 3:03 of the second
quarter and another early in the third after a fumbled punt gave
Utah the ball at the USU 17.
The three touchdowns put Utes in command and Utah all but sealed
it with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Madsen, who missed
much of fall camp with a hamstring injury, with 13:10 left to play.
Madsen, who had never caught more than one touchdown pass in a
game, caught the ball in the right corner despite having Utah State
freshman Marquise Charles on his back.
Utah State, which trailed 20-0 after the first quarter against
the Utes last year, took its first lead in the series since 2001
when Ryan Bohm scored on a 3-yard run early in the second quarter.
Utah answered with on Johnson's 2-yard run and after Utah State
punted from its own end zone, Eric Weddle returned the kick 22
yards to the USU 30. Johnson threw a 10-yard pass to Madsen on
first down and Madsen broke a tackle and ran in to put Utah up
The Aggies forced the Utes to punt on the opening possession of
the third quarter, but Kevin Robinson bungled the kick when he
tried to field it on the bounce. Utah recovered at the 17 and
Ganther scored on a 2-yard run with 12:18 left in the third.
"It just bounced and it came right to me. I was surprised when
it hit me. I just dropped the ball. They recovered it," Robinson
Oregon running back Thomas Tyner has decided to take a medical retirement after sitting out all of last season because of a shoulder injury.
It hasn't been an easy road at USC for Pat Haden, the former Trojans quarterback turned athletic director, but at 63, he's earned the right to relax.
Readers want to know about all "downer" material, Iowa cutting ties with Stanford and an inherent southern bias in recruiting rankings.
What did we learn from the Big 12 conference sessions this week? Jake Trotter sorts it out in this edition of the mailbag.
UCLA's Josh Rosen will look to redeem himself against USC in 2016, making the matchup one of the upcoming season's most compelling games.
Haden's aim of reclaiming lost glory ended thanks to coaching flameouts. But his final grade remains incomplete until we see more from Clay Helton.