The state of Utah once again runs red.
The No. 14 Utes wore down and overpowered rival BYU on Thursday night in a lopsided 30-12 victory that was the Salt Lake City-based squad’s ninth in a row in the aptly-named Holy War.
Leading the way for the Pac-12 favorite was not surprisingly their run game. Tailback Zach Moss fought for every inch in the hard-hitting affair but had 181 yards on the ground, the first time a back has hit the century mark in the series since 2011. Proving he was not only healthy but has maybe added a few things to his repertoire in the offseason, the senior also caught a few passes as well.
His big night helped fuel an offense that didn’t quite click on all cylinders under new coordinator Andy Ludwig. Quarterback Tyler Huntley managed just 106 yards passing, proving to be fairly accurate overall but not one to take many shots down field. Though they did get things going in the second half against a pretty stout Cougars defense, there’s still plenty to work on in the coming weeks before a looming Pac-12 South battle against USC in late September.
More concerning for head coach Kyle Whittingham? Probably special teams, which were very un-Utah-like in the opener. There were a handful of questionable returns and, while new kicker Andrew Strauch nailed a 41 yard field goal, he also missed the team’s first extra point in 183 tries and shanked a 25-yarder in the fourth quarter.
While that was off-brand for the Utes, their opponents seemed to repeat their performance from many of the last few meetings. The defense was solid enough for the Cougars but the offense remained a work in progress with a penchant for untimely turnovers.
Zach Wilson did have his moments at quarterback and threw for 208 yards but not one but two pick-sixes. He was also the team’s leading rusher for most of the night to illustrate how things were going and seemed to be under pressure nearly every dropback.
The end result was a white flag for those in Provo early in the second half and yet another year of hearing it from their Power Five rivals as the losing streak approaches a decade. The Cougars can still regroup with a chance to knock off a big name opponent with Tennessee, USC and Washington on the upcoming docket but none of those will hold quite the importance that comes with beating their rivals.
And to make matters even worse for Kalani Sitake and company, there was even a weather delay in the fourth quarter that seemed to prolong the misery even more.
Not that Utah really minded on Thursday night as they secured yet another victory over BYU in convincing fashion.