Kragthorpe: Ute offense soars in spring football finale
Four months from now, Kalani Sitake will genuinely appreciate what the Utah offense is doing.
The Utes' defensive coordinator was not having much fun Saturday, which is a very good sign for this program.
"I'm excited for them to go against other people," Sitake said. "I'm sick of defending them."
Sitake's defense will be just fine, once the likes of Trevor Reilly and Brian Blechen are fully activated and the scheme is allowed to vary unlike the conditions for the White's 35-28 victory over the Red in an intrasquad game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Disclaimers aside, the obvious takeaway from spring football practice is there's hope for Utah's offense. "From the start to where we ended up today, we made a great deal of improvement," said co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson.
That was easily evident in the Red-White Game. The past couple of years, Utah's offensive players could have stayed on the field all day and not gained anywhere close to 800 yards.
Sure, the defense was restricted, "but it's been watered down in this game for years, and we haven't had this kind of productivity offensively," said coach Kyle Whittingham.
Last April's final score: 22-21. Behind quarterbacks Travis Wilson and Adam Schulz, the teams delivered touchdown drives on their first five possessions (starting from the offense's 35-yard line) and combined for 56 points in the first half Saturday.
The offenses posted 524 yards on 65 plays in the 20-minute half. Even with a running clock in the second half, they finished with 797 yards on 98 plays 532 passing yards and 265 rushing yards.
For the White, Wilson completed 13 of 17 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns and Karl Williams rushed for 108 yards. Adam Schulz's nine completions accounted for 245 yards and two scores and Kevin York ran for 79 yards for the Red.
"It's a balanced offense that has a lot of weapons," Sitake said.
With the frame of reference being Utah's No. 11 ranking in the Pac-12 in total offense in 2012, improvement is inevitable. The issue is how much better the offense will perform against real opponents, but anyone in Uteville had to be encouraged Saturday.
The quarterbacks played confidently, the backs ran well and the line was aggressive. The line was a weakness last season, but Erickson has raved about that group all spring. The Utes appear capable of running the ball consistently out of their uptempo, spread scheme.
Except for a few drops, the receivers also looked much better. Dres Anderson made a 57-yard touchdown grab, Delshawn McClellon took a short pass 73 yards for a score and Kenneth Scott caught five passes for 97 yards.
The receivers wore their usual jersey numbers Saturday, after spending the spring in the 30s and 40s as dictated by their position coach, Aaron Roderick.
"It wasn't meant as punishment, it was just sort of our way of saying it's a new year and we're all starting over here," Roderick said. "It's a tough, blue-collar mentality where nobody cares who gets the credit. We're all the same guy, wearing ugly numbers, just kind of doing our job."
Happy to be back in his No. 2, Scott said the tactic worked. "It made us all be on the same terrain and make nobody seem like they're better than anybody else," he said.
Whittingham was unhappy that Scott dunked the football over the crossbar after catching a touchdown pass, drawing a penalty.
But considering the recent state of Utah's offense, his over-the-top response was understandable.