Through all the talk of transitions going into the 2009 season, the No. 19 Utah Utes have insisted there was plenty of continuity remaining in the program to make them successful again.
Hard to argue with them after Thursday's 35-17 win over Utah State in front of 45,333 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
While the game might not have been a show of force for the 19th-ranked Utes considering it was against a much lesser opponent, it was a sufficient test that showed the potential the Utes say is there to make another run at the conference title.
The Utes debuted a new quarterback, junior Terrance Cain, who provided the workmanlike, safe effort the Utes wanted in the successor to Brian Johnson, going 20-of-30 for 286 yards and two touchdowns.
Running back Matt Asiata demonstrated why the Utes plan to use him extensively in the offense, rushing 36 times for 156 yards and two touchdowns with his new and improved streamlined figure.
As for the Utes' defense, so far the pattern of new coordinator, same stingy effort from the players looks like it will continue.
Utah's defenders gave up two big plays early when Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel connected with Stanley Morrison for a 48-yard pass that led to a field goal, then let Robert Turbin score on a 96-yard run that made it a 14-10 game at the end of the first quarter.
However, the Utes' containment that has worked so well in recent seasons came together for the rest of the game ensuring that former Utah assistant Gary Andersen would go back to Logan with a loss in his first game as the Aggies' head coach.
He tried some high jinx, using some wishbone here and going on fourth down twice but wasn't creative enough to really threaten with an upset.
Yep, all in all the Utes got what they wanted out of Thursday night, a solid score against an instate rival in which unproven players proved they might just be able to handle the expectations for this team.
"There were a lot of things to build on and work with, a lot of positives," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "I'm proud of our players. We have a lot of work to do, that is evident, but it was a good way to start the season."
Out of all the questions that surrounded the Utes, who would be the successor to Johnson held the most drama ever since former backup Corbin Louks failed to win the job in the spring.
Cain, brought in as insurance from Blinn Community College, overtook freshman Jordan Wynn in the final weeks of fall camp for the starting role. Judging from Thursday's effort Wynn might not be No. 1 for another two seasons.
Cain connected on his first seven passes and his first 11 of 12, throwing a 65-yard touchdown pass to David Reed and a 22-yard touchdown pass to John Peel. Reed had his biggest night as a Ute, catching 10 passes for 172 yards and the touchdown.
Afterward Reed said his quarterback made a lot of "good choices," an assessment that was similar to Whittingham's, especially for a quarterback who said he didn't know he was going to start until two days ago.
"I've been playing this game all my life," Cain said. "I just wanted to stay composed for my team."
He did that and the Utes got the win, for now, it was good enough.
"It's something we can build on," Whittingham said.
In short » The Utes rout the Aggies to win their 12th straight in the series and 15th straight game, continuing the nation's longest win streak.
Key moment » Terrance Cain throws a short slant to David Reed which the receiver turns into a 65-yard touchdown for the Utes' first score.
Key stat » Utah's defense refuses to allow the Aggies to convert a third down. Utah State was 0-of-12.
1st » 6-of-6 133 yards 2 TD, 0 INT
2nd » 5-of-9 65 yards 0 TD, O INT
3rd » 7-of-11 71 yards 0 TD, 0 INT
4th » 2-of-4 17 yards 0 TD, 0 INT
Utah vs. Utah State under Kyle Whittingham:
2008 » Utah, 58-10
2007 » Utah, 34-18
2006 » Utah, 48-0
2005 » Utah, 31-7