No. 14 Utah out to avenge ’21 loss to San Diego State

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego State visits No. 14 Utah on Saturday night in Salt Lake City. The two sides will have a difficult time repeating the excitement of last year’s meeting, when the Aztecs earned a triple-overtime victory.

“A miserable experience,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said this week of that 33-31 loss from a year ago. “It was not a good experience, and we just didn’t play well. But after the outcome and moving forward, it turned out to be a change in our season.”

That change largely was due to quarterback Cameron Rising, who stepped in to rally Utah and force overtime in that game. He then became the Utes’ starter, leading them to 10 wins, a Pac-12 title and a berth in the Rose Bowl.

This season, Rising has completed 70.9 percent (39 of 55) of his passes for 470 yards and four touchdowns for Utah (1-1). He’ll face a San Diego State (1-1) defense that has given up 278.5 passing yards per-game this season, a mark that ranks 111th in FBS.

“He’s a whole different animal,” San Diego State coach Brady Hoke said Tuesday of Rising. “He can run, he can get out of problems, extend plays. He’s a really good football player.”

Tavion Thomas leads Utah’s running backs with 170 yards on 34 carries. Chris Curry ran for 60 yards and a score on six carries last weekend against FCS side Southern Utah in what Whittingham called his “best game as a Ute.”

Whittingham, though, said he would like to see more from his wide receivers.

“I said at the onset of the season and then through fall camp that if the wideouts could become more explosive, then that’s really the final stage of the offensive becoming where we want it to be,” he said Monday.

Utah’s defense surrendered 451 yards of total offense against Florida in a season-opening 29-26 loss, then limited Southern Utah to 85 yards in a 73-7 rout last week.

“The score aside, just playing better fundamentals and technique, particularly in the front seven on defense,” Whittingham said of the game against Southern Utah.

San Diego State, which snapped the Utes’ five-game winning streak in the series last year, is coming off a 38-7 victory against FCS Idaho State.

The Aztecs are led by Virginia Tech transfer Braxton Burmeister at quarterback. The fifth-year senior — who started his college career at Oregon — has totaled 259 yards of total offense and three touchdowns this season.

“When he first came in, we had that good connection,” running back Jordan Byrd said of Burmeister. “He’s a good guy. He didn’t come in with a big head. It was really good to see him come to the team — it really changed a lot for us.”

San Diego State’s offense has been run-heavy, with 10 different ball carriers combining for 581 rushing yards overall in two games.

Jaylon Armstead has rushed for 129 yards on 10 carries. Byrd produced two long scoring runs, 53 yards from scrimmage and 66 yards on a punt return, against Idaho State.

Utah has won 20 of its last 21, including nine straight, at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

–Field Level Media

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