Cameron Rising (7) of the Utah Utes throws the ball while playing the San Diego State Aztecs in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. (Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY — The game doesn’t start until the second quarter for No. 14 Utah football in 2022.
After a slow start in Week 2 against Southern Utah, the Utes were held scoreless in the first quarter on Saturday against a San Diego State team that made Utah look average on offense. But in the second quarter, just like the week prior, Utah’s offense clicked.
Utah scored 21 unanswered points in the quarter, including back-to-back touchdown receptions from wide receivers Solomon Enis and Devaughn Vele — the first touchdown receptions to receivers this season — to take a three-score lead into the halftime break.
In the end, Utah wrapped up its nonconference slate with a 35-7 win over San Diego State (1-2), leaving no doubt on the field a year after the Aztecs claimed a win over the Utes in three overtime periods. Since its Week 1 loss to Florida, the Utes have gone on a 108-14 scoring run in the last two games
In the first quarter, Utah (2-1) struggled to get a first down, Rising missed his targets, the receivers didn’t get any separation, and there wasn’t anything in the run game to move the sticks. That all changed when Rising connected on a 15-yard pass up the seam to Enis about five minutes into the quarter. From that moment on, Utah’s offense was diverse and the ball moved with ease.
Rising finished the first half throwing for 162 of the team’s 260 total yards of offense and three touchdowns on 14-of-24 passing. He finished the night with 224 yards and four touchdowns — a career high for the starting QB — on 18-of-30 passing before being pulled early in the fourth quarter.
Rising was replaced by backup Bryson Barnes, who finished with only 3 rushing yards and no passes in just over 11 minutes of play. Instead, it turned into the Jaylon Glover run-out-the-clock strategy to closeout the game.
Outside of Rising’s connections at the end of the first half with Enis and Vele, the starting quarterback opened up the team’s scoring on a 30-yard toss to an open Brant Kuithe to give the home team a 7-0 lead.
San Diego State fumbled the ball on the kickoff return late in the first half and Caine Savage recovered it on the 27-yard line to set up the Utes for another score before the half — a 15-yard sideline catch by Vele in the end zone as he dragged his feet inbounds.
The Aztecs burned through their depth at the quarterback position early after starter Braxton Burmeister left the game in the second quarter when he took a hard hit by Utah edge player Miki Suguturaga. The Aztecs moved to redshirt freshman Will Haskell for one series before switching to freshman Kyle Crum for the remainder of the game after Suguturaga had another hit on an Aztecs QB.
Crum finished the night throwing for 53 yards on 5-of-16 passing, and orchestrated the team’s best drive of the night in the fourth quarter to get into Utah territory with most of Utah’s defensive starters on the sideline. The drive, however, ended with a turnover on downs when Crum missed his intended receiver and Utah took over on their 26-yard line.
Late in the game, San Diego State recovered a muffed punt fumble by Utah, and scrum found Joshua Nicholson for an 18-yard touchdown for the Aztecs’ only score of the night.
Between the three quarterbacks for the Aztecs, they only managed seven completions for 60 yards. Like Suguturaga’s attack on San Diego State, Utah’s defense held the Aztecs to just 43 yards of total offense in the first half and 173 total yards in the game.
Karene Reid added an interception in the middle of the field on San Diego State’s first drive of the second half to set up an 18-yard rushing touchdown by Tavion Thomas four plays later.
This story will be updated.