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Utah football: Utes will take a step up vs. Aggies

Published September 4, 2012 12:03 pm

College football • Utah knows USU will present a challenge.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

To their credit, the Utah Utes didn't try to make their season-opening win any more than what it was. They are to a point now where, as a member of a major conference, they should whip up on teams from the Football Championship Subdivision like Northern Colorado.

Now, as for the matter of facing an in-state rival for what could be the last time on their home turf, now that is a game in which a little concern is warranted.

"We know there is a bigger challenge on the horizon," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham following his team's 41-0 win over Northern Colorado on Thursday.

He knows as well as anyone that the Utah State Aggies, coached by his former defensive coordinator Gary Andersen, will be hungry for an upset when the teams meet Friday in Logan.

According to Utah athletic director Chris Hill, Friday's game is the last he foresees in Logan, which means Friday probably represents Utah State's best shot at upending the Utes.

The Utes have won 12 games in a row in the series, dating back to a 21-14 loss in 1997 in Salt Lake City. The Aggies also won the 1996 meeting 20-17 in Logan.

While their ultimate goal is to make waves in the Pac-12, the Utes have no intention of overlooking the Aggies and suffering an embarrassing loss.

"I've gone up there for games when my brother played," said tight end Jake Murphy, whose brother Shawn played for the Aggies. "I know it's a tough place to play, and we aren't taking anything lightly. They've got a good coach up there and a good program overall."

The Aggies, who beat SUU 34-3 in their opener, should at least represent a better test of the Utes than Northern Colorado did Thursday.

After some first-game jitters, the Utes settled in and beat the Bears as soundly as most had imagined.

It was a nice win that looked good scrolling along the national score lists, but it didn't reveal too much of where the Utes stand as a team. Whittingham joked afterward the Utes had emptied their playbook. While the Utes did debut backup quarterback Travis Wilson in his running role and got Murphy involved in the game, they really didn't need to do much to beat the Bears, especially with the defense refusing to let the Big Sky team cross midfield.

The one major area of improvement Whittingham wants to see from quarterback Jordan Wynn is his throws downfield. Wynn was 19-for-27 for 200 yards, but his first big shot downfield was intercepted.

"We need to connect on a few more deep balls and stretch the defense," Whittingham said.

After an easy win, the Utes are feeling like a team that just needs to stretch, period.