Given more time on the clock, Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley may have completed a sixth straight touchdown drive between the two teams in the first half of Saturday’s Red-White Game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The only flaw of that steady, efficient offensive performance was not creating enough opportunities for the kickers to attempt field goals. That’s mostly a good problem, considering the results of Utah’s offense in recent years. But a miss by each kicker left questions about that element of the Utes’ outlook in 2019, after the Red’s 21-14 victory.
Chayden Johnston missed a 43-yard try to end the first half. Jadon Redding then hit the left upright on a 31-yard attempt in the fourth quarter as the teams went scoreless in a second half that was played with a running clock and included only four possessions.
Those kicks were “both very makable, obviously,” Ute coach Kyle Whittingham said. “And that's disappointing, but it's still a work in progress.”
Otherwise, Whittingham sounded satisfied with Saturday’s event and the team’s progress this spring, amid questions to be answered in August about the makeup of the first-team offensive line and depth at linebacker.
Going against defenses that included only a few potential starters, both offenses looked sharp from the start. Huntley fired a pass down the middle for a 59-yard completion to Bryan Thompson on the White's first play and finished his day's work at halftime, having gone 8 of 9 for 158 yards. The one incompletion was a pass that probably could have been caught.
Not even the Idaho State defense that visits Rice-Eccles Stadium in September will be as accommodating as the group that Huntley faced Saturday, with a simplistic scheme and mostly reserves. Yet Huntley’s performance over 15 sessions of spring practice made a convincing case that he’ll “play the best football of his career,” offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said. “It’s my job to put him in that position.”
Huntley missed the last five games of 2018 with a broken collarbone. He exited the stadium feeling good about his grasp of the new scheme, so far. “Once I get every aspect of the offense locked down, it’s going to be a great season,” he said. “For what [Ludwig] installed, I’ve pretty much got all that under control; just looking forward to what’s going to come in the fall.”
Ludwig added a considerable amount of his playbook in the last two weeks of the spring, but only a portion of it was displayed Saturday.
The Red's Devin Brumfield got the bulk of the work among the running backs, with 12 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown. Red quarterbacks Jason Shelley and Cameron Rising went a combined 15 of 20 for 164 yards, with one touchdown each. Tight end Brant Kuithe made a leaping catch of Shelley's pass along the sideline for a 24-yard gain on the opening drive and later made a 27-yard reception.
Utah is awaiting an NCAA ruling about Rising's eligibility in 2019 as a transfer from Texas.
The Utes’ first practice of preseason camp is scheduled July 31. The team’s season opener is Aug. 29 at BYU, the home opener is Sept. 7 vs. Northern Illinois and the Pac-12 opener is Sept. 20 at USC.
• Utah’s five quarterbacks combine to complete 29 of 38 passes for 347 yards in the Red’s 21-14 win over the White in the spring football finale at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
• Nephi Sewell’s interception of a Zach Hymas pass is the only turnover in the 95-play event.
• The announced attendance is 6,300.