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Whittingham Pleased With First Spring Scrimmage

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SALT LAKE CITY – Three quarterbacks engineered drives for the first-and second-team offenses while the defense recorded a pair of picks and two sacks in the Utah football team’s first open scrimmage of the spring on Friday afternoon at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The scrimmage, scripted for 80 plays, featured extensive work with the No. 1 offense against the No. 2 defense, including red zone and situational work. It was the public’s first look at the Utes’ new spread attack under first-year offensive coordinator Troy Taylor.

Senior quarterback Troy Williams, the returning starter, ran the offense for two series and accounted for one of the two touchdowns on the day outside of the red zone drills.

Williams opened the scrimmage with a 14-play drive that ended his 10-yard run for the score. Williams converted two fourth-down plays, including one with a six-yard pass and the last with his scamper to the end zone. Williams also had an 18-yard pass to Siaosi Wilson, while senior running back Jordan Howard had runs of 11 and 17 yards on the 75-yard drive.

The second offensive series was led by senior quarterback Cooper Bateman, who is eligible to play this season after transferring from Alabama. The drive was highlighted by a 21-yard completion from Bateman to Devonta’e Henry-Cole and a 20-yard run by Howard. Jordan Fogal had a pass breakup late in the drive on 3rd-and-goal. That set up a 29-yard field goal attempt by Cristian Antezana, a transfer from San Francisco City College, that went wide left.

Sophomore Tyler Huntley was under center for the third series that lasted six plays before the offense turned the ball over on downs, coming up a few yards short on fourth down after a 13-yard pass play to Raelon Singleton.

Bateman was back for the fourth series and lofted a beautiful long throw inside the 20-yard line before Terrell Burgess recorded the second of his two pass breakups of the afternoon. Boobie Hoobs had one later on.

In the short yardage situational drills in the middle of the scrimmage, senior linebacker Kavika Laufatasaga made a big stop at the line of scrimmage on 4th-and-1. He also had a five-yard sack of Williams on a 3rd-down play during the fifth series. That drive got off to a promising start as Williams hooked up with Wilson on a 24-yard pass for a 3rd-down conversion.

Bateman threw a 48-yard touchdown pass on his third series to redshirt freshman Samson Nacua. On the next play, sophomore defensive back Julian Blackmon recorded the first of two interceptions by picking off Huntley on a deep ball. But Huntley came back in the next series and was robbed of two potential TD passes, one on a dropped ball in the end zone by Singleton and the other on a pass broken up beautifully by junior safety Chase Hansen. The latter set up the first made field goal of the day, a 20-yarder by Hayes Hicken.

The defense stepped up on the ninth and final series as redshirt freshman defensive end Davir Hamilton and junior linebacker Cody Barton collaborated for six-yard sack of Bateman that set up a 3rd-and-20.

In the red zone drills, Williams was intercepted on the first drive near the goal line by linebacker Donovan Thompson. Antezana missed a 38-yard field goal on the second red zone sequence before the offense came through. Henry-Cole, who got extensive work at running back, had a nine-yard touchdown run on the third series while Howard punched it in from four yards out the final time around.

Despite missing his first two field goals, Antezana was impressive at the end of the red zone drills by converting from 47, 49 and 52 yards.

Utah will stage its second open scrimmage on Saturday, April 8 from 10-11:30 a.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Red-White Spring game is set for Saturday, April 15 at 11 a.m. at the stadium.

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