SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s faster-paced offense put some points on the board quickly against Idaho State. The Utes mounted four touchdown drives of 2:16 or less, including three that took 42 seconds and under to complete in the 56-14 season-opening win over the Bengals.
“I think that’s indicative of fast-paced offense. When you have a fast-paced offense the drives are going to be quicker just by virtue,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “Even a six-play drive is going to be faster than a six-play drive with an offense that doesn’t run high tempo just because of the time in the huddle and that type of thing. So we’re really not concerned with the time it takes to get in the end zone.
“Obviously longer drives gives your defense a rest — whether its six, eight, 10 plays. We want to avoid three-and-outs,” he continued. “The worst thing that can happen to a high-tempo offense is three-and-out and get the defense back on the field 45 seconds later. So as long as we can avoid the three-and-outs, we’ll take touchdowns just as fast as we can get them.”
The Utes, who had just two three-and-outs in the opener, wound up scoring four of their six touchdowns against Idaho State in drives that lasted just over two minutes. The 66 percent pace is higher than 2013, when they scored 53.6 percent of their TDs in 2:16 or less.
Circumstances and situations present obvious variables, as does the opposition. Last year, Utah scored seven of its nine touchdowns against Weber State in drives that were no longer than 1:34.
This season, however, a faster tempo is being emphasized and Whittingham was fairly pleased with what took place in the opener. He thought it was about right.
“You’re always trying to force the tempo and play as fast as you can. But not at the expense of lack of execution as I’ve said many times,” Whittingham noted. “I think that there is a point of diminishing returns where you try to go too fast and although we may not be going as fast as ideal, I think we’re pushing that envelope and we’re very close.”
Starting quarterback Travis Wilson appreciates the tempo, even though he thinks there’s always room for improvement
“But I definitely felt like we were catching Idaho State out of their defense a little bit. They were still getting lined up at times when we were snapping the ball — so definitely an advantage there,” Wilson explained. “But like I said, we can always get better and faster as well.”
Wilson directed all four of Utah’s quick-strike drives against the Bengals, capping one with a 2-yard touchdown run and another with a 26-yard scoring strike to Kenneth Scott. The other two ended with TD runs by Bubba Poole and Devontae Booker.
The Utes’ first four touchdown drives from scrimmage consisted of a combined total of 18 plays, 266 yards and 3:46 off the clock.
“Obviously we want to give our defense a rest a little bit if they’ve been out there awhile. But it’s our job on offense to score and if that’s scoring quicker then that’s what we need to do,” Wilson said. "But it’s definitely good just to get points on the board.”
As the season progresses, Wilson explained that the offense is determined to keep on doing what it's doing — and efficiently as well.
Fresno State, Utah’s opponent on Saturday, gave up four touchdowns to USC’s offense on drives of 2:31 or less in a 52-13 loss last weekend. The Trojans racked up 701 yards of total offense, 37 first downs and ran 105 plays.
"Obviously it hurts, but at the same time I know that is not the type of defense that we are," Fresno State safety Derron Smith said in a report on the athletic department’s website. "We just got to come back, watch the film and get better."
Fresno State (0-1) at Utah (1-0)
Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: ESPN 700