The Utes scored a season-high 54 points on Saturday night, but it was hardly an offensive explosion in the purest sense.

The defense contributed about as much as possible to the point total as Utah dismissed San Jose State 54-16 before an announced crowd of 45,881 to improve to 3-0, the fourth consecutive season it has won its first three games.

Sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley passed for 341 yards, his second game of 300 or more yards, and rushed for a team-high 53 yards. He also tossed four touchdown passes with one interception. Senior wide receiver Darren Carrington II enjoyed anther stellar performance with nine catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns. 

Huntley became the first Utes quarterback with back-to-back 300-yard passing games since Brian Johnson did it against BYU and Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in 2008.

“I was just going through my progressions and trying to make a play with my arm,” Huntley said. “Sometimes I took off, but I was just letting the game come to me.”

The Utes blew the game open with a 21-point second quarter, none of the scoring drives going more than 48 yards. The Utes’ longest drive of the first half came on the opening possession of the game, a 72-yard march that ended with a Matt Gay field goal. 

Seventeen of the Utes’ first-half points came as a result of turnovers forced by a ball-hawking defense. Boobie Hobbs also did his part by returning three first-half punts for a total of 95 yards, including a 43-yard return when he weaved a complicated tapestry of missed tackles.

“Special teams is a huge factor in tilting the field, flipping the field and gaining field position,” Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We definitely did that tonight with our punt return game.”

With the Utes leading 9-3 in the second quarter, linebacker Sunia Tauteoli’s interception set up Utah’s first touchdown. Tauteoli dove and came up down with the ball after fellow linebacker Kavika Luafatasaga deflected an attempted screen pass by San Jose State backup quarterback Sam Allen, who came on in relief of Montel Aaron, who left the game with an injury after a hard hit from Julian Blackmon.

Huntley and the offense took over on the SJSU 43 after Tauteli’s interception and scored six plays later with 13:44 remaining in the first half when Huntley threw a low laser past the arms of a defender, where Carrington snagged it and bulled his way into the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown reception.

The Utes offense was not flawless, with three turnovers in the first half. One of them was when Samson Nacua fumbled inside the SJSU 5-yard line and the ball bounced into the pylon for a touchback. But following a Blackmon interception, the Utes took advantage and scored on a 26-yard touchdown throw by Huntley into coverage to Carrington. The score gave the Utes a 23-3 lead with 6:34 left in the half.

A three-and-out by SJSU and Hobbs’ 43-yard punt return then set up a five-play, 48-yard scoring drive capped by a Zack Moss 5-yard touchdown run with 3:32 remaining in the first half to make it 30-3 before the Spartans rallied to end the half strong on a 51-yard field goal by Bryce Crawford and a 47-yard touchdown pass by Josh Love, the third quarterback to play in the half, with 14 seconds left before halftime.

“It all ties in, I mean, team sport,” defensive end Bradlee Anae said of the defense contributing to the Utes’ gaudy scoring output. “Our defense is coming hard every play. I feel like yes we did have an effect on that.”

Huntley added a touchdown passes to Raelon Singleton and Carrington in the second half, while Gay added his fourth field goal and Devonta’e Henry-Cole rushed for his first touchdown of the season in the fourth quarter. SJSU’s only points of the second half came on a 38-yard field goal by Crawford in the fourth quarter.

Utes senior defensive end Kylie Fitts recorded his first two sacks of the season in the first half, but he left the game with an injury in the first half after colliding with a teammate attempting to make a tackle. Fitts did not play in the second half.