Storylines

• The Utes offense bounces back from an interception on the first drive of the game to compile 499 yards total offense.

• Sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley passes for 227 yards and rushes for 70 yards in his first start.

• Sophomore running back Zack Moss rushes for his first-career 100-yard game, gaining 128 yards on 22 carries.

In some ways, the Utes gave themselves a perfect starting point. They didn’t come out and roll in their season opener to the point of overconfidence. They proved, as expected, the superior team. However, there were more than enough mishaps to humble any player.

In the end, Utah’s win streak in season openers extended to 10 games with a 37-16 win over North Dakota in front of 45,905 at Rice-Eccles Stadium — the 45th consecutive sellout. Utah improved to 22-1 against nonconference opponents since joining the Pac-12, and also moved to 39-0 against current members of the Big Sky Conference.

Sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley went 23-for-32 passing for 227 yards with one touchdown — his first as a Ute — and one interception, and he also rushed for 70 yards and two touchdowns in his first collegiate start.

Huntley’s former high school teammate Zack Moss rushed for a game-high 128 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries, while graduate transfer and former University of Oregon standout wide receiver Darren Carrington II caught 10 passes for 127 yards and one touchdown.

Penalties plagued the Utes throughout the game and cost them field position and points on both sides of the ball. They gave up 139 yards on 11 penalties against an opponent that only gained 238 yards of total offense.

“Offensively, it was kind of a mixed bag,” Utes coach Kyle Whittinham said. “We did some good things, but far too many penalties. Far too many penalties overall as a team, but most of those on the offense. … Defensively, some real good things, some not so good things as well. We’re known for sacks and takeaways. We only had one of each tonight. That’s got to change. We’ve got to be better on defense at those havoc plays.”

The game’s opening drive concluded with a thud as Huntley made an ill-advised throw into coverage that got intercepted to set up North Dakota at the Utah 29-yard line. Despite stellar defense — the Utes allowed 13 yards on seven plays — North Dakota grabbed a 3-0 lead on a 32-yard field goal. The Utes held UND to 16 yards in the first quarter, but still trailed 3-0.

“My first quarter was just like everybody out there — all us just getting adjusted to the game,” Huntley said. “You saw that as the game went on, how comfortable all us got and we went from there.”

Huntley and the Utes found a rhythm going into the second quarter. Huntley scrambled out of the pocket and hit Carrington for a 14-yard gain on the run, and Huntley capped the drive when he sliced through the defense for a 16-yard touchdown run 36 seconds into the second quarter.

“He’s been ready to go since last year,” Moss said. “With him on the field, it makes it so much easier for everyone on the field because he’s a dynamic quarterback. He’s still got to improve like everyone else, but he’s got more to come for sure.”

North Dakota added another field goal with the aid of a roughing the kicker penalty that extended the possession, and finished the first half with six points on 62 yards offense. The Utes already had 75 yards in penalties at that same point.

Huntley tossed his first collegiate touchdown pass, an 18-yard strike to Carrington in the second quarter, and the Utes took a 17-9 lead into halftime. They led 27-9 going into the fourth quarter, and North Dakota’s first touchdown didn’t come until the final frame. 

By then, the game was all but decided, and fans’ attention already began turning to next weekend’s game: at Provo against rival BYU.