Football: Cox leads offense, defense bounces back from slow start

Untitled Emily Juchau

Although the Utah offense struggled early on in Saturday morning’s scrimmage, it eventually got rolling and found some success in red-zone situations.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham believes both the offense and defense played well. However, the defense did not come away with any turnovers for the second week in a row. While this is a plus for the offense, it needs to be an area of focus for the defense this upcoming week in practice.

“Painfully slow start by the offense, but once they picked it up it got very competitive, and we got a lot done,” Whittingham said. “Our forte last year was takeaways, and we got to get back to doing that.”

A few high notes include Brandon Cox, who finished 18-of-25 on the day with 223 passing yards and three touchdowns, and the defense recording six total sacks.

Cox and the first team opened up the scrimmage, but the offensive line was called for a false start a couple of times, pushing the offense back. The offense got one more set of downs to move the chains, but after a couple of tackles and a dropped pass it was forced off the field.

Tyler Huntley came out to lead the second team, and the defense held its own once more as the offense was unable to get anything going. After the special teams unit got a few reps in, the offense was brought back out and again could not find any way to move down the field.

“The biggest challenge is our defensive rush, and it’s hard to get around them, but we got to continue to make plays,” Huntley said.

The running backs started to get hot, finding gaps and getting first downs, one being Troy McCormick. On a new set of downs later in the scrimmage, Cox connected to Caleb Repp for a 50-yard touchdown, the first and longest score of the day. Whittingham thinks Repp has been quiet for a lot of spring and it’s nice to see him make some noise when it matters a bit more.

From then on, Cox started to find his touch and get the ball to his receivers to keep moving down the field. The teams then started to work on plays within the 25-yard line. Cox found Tyronne Smith to bring the team to the two-yard line, and Joe Williams made his way into the endzone for the lone rushing touchdown of the day. He finished with 33 rushing yards.

“We didn’t start like we wanted to, a little sluggish at the beginning, but once we built confidence and got things going we played well,” Cox said. “I feel like I had a good day. A couple throws I could have made, something to watch film on and keep grinding.”

The two quarterbacks continued alternating for the remainder of the scrimmage, and by the end of it all, Huntley finished with just one touchdown and 66 yards passing. Whittingham would say the race is still tight, but needs whoever is behind center to continue working hard.

One quarterback who won’t be competing the rest of spring, however, is Troy Williams. The JUCO transfer will be unavailable the rest of spring ball due to an unspecified injury. However, once fall practices roll around, Whittingham is confident Williams’ name will still be in the conversation for the starting job. Cory Butler-Byrd will also be sidelined for the remainder of spring practice.

k.brenneisen@dailyutahchronicle.com

@kbrenneisen