The University of Utah football piled up 589 yards of total offense, had two touchdown returns and blocked a field goal during a 56-14 season-opening victory over Idaho State Thursday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Utah (1-0) offense rattled off four plays of at least 30 yards and had eight plays that went for 20 yards or more. The Utes were 5-of-7 on third-down chances in the first half and ended the game 9-of-21.
Senior wide receiver Kaelin Clay made an impact for the Utes on the special teams. He ran back the 12th 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in school history in the third quarter, which was Utah's first kickoff return for a score since Reggie Dunn in 2012. Clay also came up with a 46-yard punt return for touchdown, which was the first for the Utes since Shaky Smithson in 2010.
Junior quarterback Travis Wilson played in just the first half and went 13-of-18 for 265 yards with a touchdown pass and a 2-yard rushing touchdown. The San Clemente, Calif., native started 4-for-5 for 88 yards in the first quarter.
Junior quarterback Kendal Thompson took over in the second half and ended 6-of-10 for 69 yards. Freshman quarterback Brandon Cox came on and went 3-for-3 passing for 17 yards with two carries, totaling 22 yards, with one rushing touchdown.
Junior running back Devontae Booker registered two rushing touchdowns on the night for a total of 79 yards. He also totaled 61 receiving yards out of the backfield for 139 all-purpose yards. Troy McCormick totaled 45 rushing yards on 12 carries, while Bubba Poole turned in 44 rush yards on six carries.
Through the air, senior wide receiver Dres Anderson had four receptions for 111 yards, which was his seventh career 100-yard receiving game. Anderson is now tied for fourth in school history in career 100-yard receiving games. Tight end Westlee Tonga had a game-high five receptions for 61 yards, while Kenneth Scott turned in 57 yards on four catches with a touchdown near the end of the first half.
Defensively, senior defensive end Nate Orchard was credited with 2.5 sacks and tied with linebacker Jared Norris for team-high honors with eight tackles (Norris also had 1.5 tackles for loss). Orchard set the tone for the Ute defense with a five-yard sack on ISU's second play from scrimmage before sophomore defensive end Hunter Dimick and Orchard met at the quarterback for a combined 6-yard yard sack.
Tom Hackett had two punts downed inside the 5-yard line, starting with a 38-yard effort to pin the Bengals down on the 1-yard line in the second quarter before turning in a 50-yard punt to put the Bengals at their own 3-yard line. Hackett also registered a 62-yard punt in the first quarter, his 20th career punt of 50 yards or more. He has placed 12 punts inside the five-yard line in his career and 20 inside the 10-yard line.
Poole returned the following ISU punt 17 yards to put the Ute offense on the Bengal 35-yard line. Utah wasted little time in capitalizing on the field position and put together a three-play, 35-yard scoring drive to put Utah ahead. Wilson found Anderson for a 13-yard pass along the right sideline and back-to-back rushes (16 and 6 yards) by Poole culminated in his first rush touchdown of the season.
After consecutive 3-and-outs by the Utah defense, ISU running back Xavier Finney broke a 34-yard run down the right hash to spur ISU's 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ended with Justin Arias finding Broc Malcolm in the back of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown reception.
During the next Utah series, Wilson drew the ISU defense in and found Booker for a 61-yard screen pass down the home sideline. Wilson then dove for the near corner pylon for a 2-yard rush touchdown to cap an 8-play, 75-yard scoring drive.
The Bengals drove down to Utah's 13-yard line before Orchard's second sack of the game forced a 30-yard ISU field goal attempt, which was blocked by Utah senior safety Eric Rowe (his first field goal block). The chase after the loose ball rumbled toward mid field before ISU's Jim Bagley picked up the ball and moved back to the Utah 18-yard line.
Utah struck quickly with a 4-play, 82-yard scoring drive that lasted 42 seconds. Wilson connected with Anderson for 37 yards on the first play of the ensuing drive before Booker finished the drive with a 38-yard rush for his second score of the contest that put Utah ahead 21-7.
Hackett's second punt of the contest was downed at the ISU 1-yard line and Clay broke a tackle and was off on a 46-yard punt return for a touchdown for Utah's first punt return for a touchdown since Smithson's 73-yard effort against New Mexico in 2010.
Utah's next scoring drive began on its own 28-yard line as Wilson found Anderson on a square-in for a 13-yard pass before Scott broke a tackle and jolted down to ISU's 35-yard line after a 20-yard gain before a fumble by McCormick gave the Bengals possession at their own 9-yard line.
Anderson got behind the Bengal defense for a 48-yard pickup on a throw from Wilson to start the drive before Scott extended and dragged his right toe in bounds for his first touchdown on a 26-yard touchdown reception to cap a three-play, 74-yard drive that lasted only 16 seconds.
After the first three plays for the Utah offense stalled, the Ute punt team took the field. Hackett went into a rugby-style punting motion, but kept the ball and ran down the Ute sideline for a 28-yard rush. Booker then reached the end zone for the second time in the game on a 4-yard run.
ISU broke Utah's run of 35 unanswered points with a 75-yard touchdown drive in the middle of the third quarter to pull within 42-14, before Clay answered promptly with a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown.
A 16-yard touchdown scramble by Cox was the final score of the contest and set the final margin at 56-14 in favor of the Utes.
Idaho State (0-1) was led by a 134-yard rushing performances on 23 carries by Finney. Quarterback Justin Arias was 21-of-40 for 158 yards with two touchdowns.
Up next, the Utes host Fresno State of the Mountain West on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 1 p.m. MT on Pac-12 Networks.