SALT LAKE CITY — Cam Rising jogged off the sector at Rice Eccles Stadium with a broad smile and never a drop of sweat on his head. Rising, Utah’s beginning quarterback, did not see the sector Thursday night time as he continued to recuperate from an offseason ACL surgical procedure, however the Utes did not miss him.
Of their season opener towards Florida — a rematch of final September’s recreation wherein the Gators received 29-26 in Gainesville — the Utes used a two-quarterback system to propel themselves to a 24-11 victory. They’re going to head into the second week of the season with a win underneath their belt and a more healthy Rising.
“We wish Cam again as quickly as we are able to get him again,” head coach Kyle Whittingham mentioned after the win. “He is been given extra latitude within the final 48 hours, so he is gonna be capable to observe primarily full on subsequent week.”
Whittingham stopped in need of saying Rising can be out there to play, including that although the two-year starter has made progress, the choice to maintain him out of the opener was one which they delayed as a lot as they might in hopes that he might be prepared.
In Rising’s place, Whittingham and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig deployed a model of a two-quarterback system wherein junior pocket-passer Bryson Barnes began the sport whereas dynamic redshirt freshman Nate Johnson was additionally featured in particular packages that resembled Wildcat formations.
Barnes mentioned he knew a couple of week and a half in the past that he can be beginning.
“They’re so totally different that you just primarily need to have two plans if you’re dealing with them,” mentioned Whittingham, who credited the Utes’ protection for the win. “It provides one other dimension.”
Whereas the Utes ran solely 53 performs on offense Thursday night time, each quarterbacks made probably the most of their appearances. Barnes, for his half, did it on the primary play of Utah’s first drive. After taking his first snap of the 12 months, Barnes dropped again within the pocket and launched a go that discovered broad receiver Cash Parks in excellent stride for a 70-yard landing.
The rating despatched the already loud Utah crowd right into a frenzy and instantly set the tone for the Utes’ win.
“That is the stuff you speak about if you’re just a little child,” Barnes, a former walk-on who began and received a recreation towards Washington State final season, mentioned of the play. “We knew what we have been going to run with our opener. We had an concept of what sort of tendencies they do once they come out.”
That play name spoke volumes about Whittingham’s belief in Barnes as an acceptable substitute for Rising. Barnes went on to finish 12 of his 18 go makes an attempt for 159 yards and a landing, and he added a rating on the bottom as effectively. The numbers, Whittingham identified, weren’t gaudy, however Barnes’ capability to run the offense and never flip the ball over have been much more precious than any shortcomings.
“You possibly can coach them quite a bit tougher if you win than you possibly can after a loss,” Whittingham mentioned of the quarterbacks. “It actually could not be a greater state of affairs.”
As efficient as Barnes was within the pocket, Johnson was equally prolific out of it. Within the Utes’ first drive of the second quarter, Whittingham inserted his different quarterback choice into the sport, and it did not take lengthy for Johnson to point out his potential. On a quarterback keeper, Johnson, a observe star in highschool, danced his method by means of a flailing Florida protection, showcasing his pace and agility as he dusted a Florida defender on his approach to a 27-yard landing. He completed the sport because the Utes’ main rusher with 45 yards on six carries and the landing.
“He is electrical,” Whittingham mentioned of Johnson. “Struggled with just a little little bit of ball safety a pair occasions, however he is obtained a fairly a future. You possibly can see he makes guys miss and he appears to be like like he is the quickest man within the subject each time he is on the market.”
Barnes and Johnson mentioned they felt snug enjoying collectively, even typically on the identical drives, and added that Rising has acted as a mentor to each of them all through the offseason and particularly within the lead-up to the primary recreation.
“He is been telling us the whole lot,” Johnson mentioned. “With him being down, he is like teaching each of us as effectively. I imply it is, it is actually a great factor.”
“Me and Nate having the alternatives to get reps whereas additionally having a veteran quarterback sitting within the again,” Barnes mentioned. “It isn’t fairly often you get these sorts of alternatives with the man who’s been there.”
Rising is perhaps again at observe this week and will play as quickly as Saturday’s powerful street recreation at Baylor, however after Thursday, it is clear that Whittingham and the Utes have loads of choices underneath heart ought to they arrive to wish them as they embark on the chase for a possible third straight Pac-12 title.