The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 10th-ranked Utah Utes hit the road for a non-conference matchup with the Iowa State Cyclones this weekend.
Utah has opened the season with four consecutive victories and figures to contend for the Mountain West Conference crown in its last season as a member of that league. The Utes, who crushed San Jose State by a 56-3 final last week, will join the Pac-10 next year. They have had two weeks to prepare for this weekend's tilt and begin a stretch of three road games in four weeks.
"It was a great effort by our team," said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham after the San Jose State contest. "We played an exceptionally clean game, no turnovers and only one penalty for five yards."
As for Iowa State, it has gotten off to a solid 3-2 start, including 1-1 in Big 12 Conference action. The Cyclones treated the home crowd to a 52-38 triumph over Texas Tech last weekend and are 3-0 in Ames thus far.
"There was a different energy tonight," Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads said after the win over Texas Tech. "We practiced with conviction and it showed tonight."
Iowa State has won all four of its previous meetings with Utah, and all of those games took place during the 1970s.
Utah is racking up an eye-popping 44.2 ppg despite gaining fewer than 400 yards per game, a paradox for sure. The Utes have 20 offensive touchdowns to date split evenly between the run and the pass. They have been able to make good on 51 percent of their third down conversion attempts, and the team's quarterbacks have combined to throw just one interception. Jordan Wynn and Terrance Cain have both seen significant time under center and have performed admirably. Eddie Wide leads the ground attack with 210 yards, while Jereme Brooks tops the receivers with 20 catches for 307 yards and four scores.
Wynn took most of the snaps against San Jose State last time out and completed 14-of-18 passes for 124 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Wide made the most of his carries, gaining 61 yards and a score on eight attempts. The Utes rolled up 427 yards of total offense, including 272 rushing yards at a clip of 6.8 ypc.
There is absolutely no doubt that Utah is one of the finest defensive football teams in the country. The Utes are allowing a minuscule 12.8 ppg and 246.8 total ypg. They have been terrific against the run, limiting foes to 86.8 ypg and 2.4 yards per carry. The fact that the defense has yielded just three touchdowns to opposing offenses in 16 quarters of football is staggering. Chaz Walker paces Utah with 40 total tackles, and Lamar Chapman leads the charge with 3.5 sacks.
The Utes completely shut down San Jose State last week, limiting the overmatched Spartans to seven first downs and 172 total yards. Utah held SJSU to 1-of-12 success on third-down conversion attempts and permitted a mere 2.9 yards per rushing attempt.
"The front four has played really well this season, not allowing a rusher to go over 100 yards," said Whittingham. "But we're still not creating takeaways and that's one thing we have to work on in the coming weeks."
Iowa State scored six offensive touchdowns versus Texas Tech moved the ball up and down the field with ease in that game. Austen Arnaud was outstanding under center, as he completed 20-of-28 passes for 190 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions. Four different receivers hauled in those scoring strikes, and two different tailbacks finished with triple digits in rushing yardage. Alexan Robinson posted 103 yards and a score, while Shontre Johnson had 102 yards and a touchdown.
The Iowa State defense was not nearly as impressive as the team's offense last time out, as the Cyclones struggled to contain the Red Raiders. Sure, they did come up with three takeaways in the tilt, but Tech was able to roll up 508 total yards and five passing touchdowns.
Overall this season, Iowa State is generating 26.6 ppg and 324.4 total ypg. Arnaud has completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 780 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions. Robinson leads the ground attack with 404 yards and four scores, while Collin Franklin is tops among the receivers with 21 catches.
Opponents are posting 22.0 ppg and 384.4 total ypg against an Iowa State defense that can best be described as mediocre. The squad is yielding 4.8 yards per rushing attempt and 11.2 yards per pass completion, two figures that can certainly stand some improvement.