Sep 2, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes running back Micah Bernard (2) is tackled by Weber State Wildcats defensive end George Tarlas (44) in the first quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

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Utah looking to bounce back against San Diego State

Utah is searching for answers on both sides of the ball heading into a nonconference clash Saturday with San Diego State in Carson, Calif.

The Utes (1-1) endured some uncharacteristic struggles during a 26-17 loss to archrival BYU on Saturday. Defensively, Utah surrendered 231 rushing yards — the highest amount it had given up since a loss to Texas in the 2019 Alamo Bowl. Offensively, the Utes could not sustain drives, converting just 2 of 11 attempts on third and fourth downs.

BYU dominated the Utes at the line of scrimmage both offensively and defensively for four quarters, a rarity for a Utah team with a reputation for punishing opponents up front.

“They wore us out in the second half,” Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said. “That’s when they started to wear us down and push us around. … They did a great job of sticking to their game plan, not deviating, continuing to run the football, and softening us up. Usually, we don’t soften up.”

San Diego State (2-0) will pose another tough test for the Utes along the line of scrimmage.

The Aztecs thrashed Arizona 38-14 on Saturday after rolling up 271 yards on the ground. Greg Bell led the way with 125 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. San Diego State averaged 4.9 yards per carry as a team.

Defensively, the Aztecs held Arizona to 230 total yards and nine first downs. San Diego State forced 11 punts and the Wildcats went 1-of-14 on third down. It helped the Aztecs stake out a 21-0 lead by the midway point of the first quarter.

The fast start came a week after New Mexico State shut out San Diego State in the first half.

“I wish I could tell you how they happen, but if I could tell you, we would do it every time,” Aztecs coach Brady Hoke said. “I believe we had a good plan.”

Containing Utah running back Micah Bernard will be key to San Diego State jumping on a second straight Pac-12 opponent quickly. Bernard ripped off 146 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries against BYU. He is averaging 10.1 yards per carry through his first two games and seems to have emerged as Ty Jordan’s successor in the backfield.

“He’s grown up right before our eyes,” Whittingham said. “He has matured and developed a toughness and a consistency about him that is admirable.”

Utah has won five straight in the series with San Diego State dating back to 2005. The Utes hold a 17-12-1 lead in the series.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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