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August 30, 2008
Utes escape Big House letdown
Despite a terrible second half performance by the offense, and uncharacteristic special teams mistakes, Utah held on to defeat Michigan 25-23.
The Good, the bad, and the ugly
The Utes had a terrific first-half performance on both sides of the ball, especially from quarterback Brian Johnson. Johnson completed 15 of 23 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown in the opening 30 minutes of play while the defense allowed 10 points on just 107 yards. Utah dominated Michigan in the first-half, out gaining the Wolverines 280-107 and taking a 22-10 lead into the locker room.
The tide turned in the second half, as adjustments by Michigan's defense combined with some conservative offense to shut down Utah. Utah scored just 3 points while gaining a grand total of 8 yards in the second half. As brilliant as Johnson was to start the game, he and the offense were comparably as bad to finish. Johnson actually combined to lose 14 yards in the second half, completing 6 of 10 passes for 52 yards and an interception while losing 66 yards on 14 carries. To be fair to Johnson, 20 of those negative rushing yards came as Utah ran as much clock as possible as the game drew to a close.
During that time, Michigan capitalized on short field, including scoring a touchdown after blocking a Louie Sakoda punt to close within 8 points of the Utes. Utah fumbled on the next possession and Michigan again took advantage of a key turnover, covering 31 yards on 4 plays to make the score 25-23 in favor of the Utes. Michigan missed on the conversion, and that ended scoring for the day.
Utah's defense made for a rough debut of Rich Rodriguez and the spread offense in Ann Arbor. After leading the nation in pass efficiency defense, the Utes held Michigan to just 203 yards of offense - including 36 yards on 25 carries for a suspect defensive line - averaging a meager 3.2 yards per play while turning the ball over 3 times. Even though the Wolverine offense looked anemic for much of the game, backup quarterback Steven Threet showed flashes of his ability, leading the offense to both second-half touchdowns.
Matt Asiata looked good returning from last season's broken leg, rushing for 77 yards on 13 carries. Bradon Godfrey led all receivers with 84 yards on 7 catches and a touchdown. Paul Kruger led Utah's defensive effort with 9 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a half-sack. Koa Misi added 5 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Sean Smith had 2 pass breakups and an interception.
Utah looks to capitalize on the momentum of winning their first season opener since 2005 when they welcome conference foe UNLV to Salt Lake City next Saturday.
Utah - Louie Sakoda. Pre-season All-American who will be in the running for both the Ray Guy and Lou Groza awards, Sakoda showed off his dual-threat ability, going 4-4 on field goals including a 53 yard kick while averaging 47 yards on 6 punts, with 3 over 50 yards and pinning Michigan inside the 20 yard line 3 times.
Michigan - Obi Ezah. Michigan's fantastic young linebacker tallied 15 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and an interception.