Any question that Utah would have even the slightest problem with Arizona was answered early and often Friday night.
Yes, the Utes are playing their best ball of the season. No, the Wildcats are not any better than the team that lost to BYU at home in the season-opener last month.
Scoring almost with ease on their first two drives in the first quarter, the Utes rolled to a 42-10 win at Rice-Eccles Stadium. After losing its first two Pac-12 games, to Washington and Washington State, Utah has now drawn even at 2-2 and 4-2 overall.
Up next is a match with USC, the preseason favorite to win the South Division. At this point, don’t bet against another at home for surging Utah.
“We feel like we got a good squad,” said linebacker Chase Hansen. “When everyone does their job things kind of click. When the offense and defense clicks at the same time I feel like we’re a pretty dangerous team in this conference.”
In the span of two games, the Utes have made all the prior struggles on offense look like a distant memory. Hard to believe this is the game group that managed only one touchdown in consecutive games against Northern Illinois and Washington and produced only a field goal in the second half at Washington State.
But here we are, with an offense that looks like it can’t be stopped. No longer one dimensional with the run, suddenly the Utes are completing passes all over the field.
The same receivers that couldn’t catch a cold in September now have sticky fingers. Even quarterback Tyler Huntley got in the act, catching a 58-yard touchdown pass on a trick play from receiver and former high school quarterback Britain Covey.
“We really have found a identity as a team,” Covey said. “It’s obvious to see.”
Following up on last week’s impressive win at Stanford, Utah’s offense continued where it left off in California. The first drive was a thing of beauty, as the Utes moved down the field covering the 75 yards in 15 plays.
They easily converted a third down three times. Even a false start and a sack did nothing to deter the 7 minute, 13 second drive, which was finished by Huntley’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Samson Nacua.
Not bothering to take near as much time the second time around, the Utes covered the 69 yards in only five plays that took barely over 90 seconds off the clock. The highlight was Huntley’s 39-yard pass to Jaylen Dixon that resulted in a first-and-goal.
Not to be outdone by such early supremacy, Utah added another two touchdowns in the second quarter. Garbage time arrived early in this one.
“It was just overall a good team win,” said coach Kyle Whittingham. “Just like last week.”
Arizona, as presently constituted, had little chance to pull off the upset against the two-touchdown favorites. The Wildcats (2-2, 3-4) are mediocre at best on both sides of the football.
The tricky part is deciding which is worse, the offense or defense. Call it a dead heat.
For the Wildcats, the best thing to come out of this game was Khalil Tate – literally. Playing on an injured ankle he suffered in the second game of the season in a blowout loss to Houston, Tate has been severely limited for the last month.
Touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate for good reason, he was named the Pac-12 player of the week for consecutive times last season, Tate has battled through extreme disappointment so far this year. His valiant effort finally came to end after Hansen brought him down on a scramble in the first quarter.
With Tate, the Wildcats were badly outmatched. Without him, it was barely more than a scrimmage for Utah.