The University of Utah has turned around a season that started 1-3 with consecutive victories over Utah State, a thrilling triumph over Louisville, and a solid win over San Diego State in Salt Lake City.
The Utes prevailed 44-35 Friday, October 5 against the Cardinals in Kentucky. Ute QB Brian Johnson threw for 312 yards and Darrell Mack rushed for nearly 160 as Utah maintained a 27-7 halftime lead.
The win was a stunner for both teams. The Cardinals, behind Heisman candidate Brian Brohm, began the season in the Top 10, favored to win the strong Big East, and viewed as a prime national championship contender. However, they are just 4-3 after defeating #23 Cincinnati eight days after the surprising loss to the Utes.
Meanwhile, Utah was facing a 2-4 record without the win, creating a must-win situation if they had any postseason hopes.
The following week, Utah defeated San Diego State 23-7 in Rice-Eccles Stadium to up their record to 4-3. Mack rushed for 131 yards on 22 carries, propelling the offense to productivity, behind a stellar defensive effort.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for Utah came from the defensive side, where true freshman linebacker Loma had a sack and a tackle-for-loss. Loma saw playing time due to the loss of senior linebacker Kyle Brady for the season.
The Utes now focus on TCU for tomorrow, October 18, for a showdown with the Horned Frogs (4-3, 1-2) at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. The winner has an inside track for a bowl game, while the loser will be looking desperate for a berth, especially when considering that the Mountain West currently sports six of the nine teams with winning records. All of the other four teams- BYU, Air Force, New Mexico, and Wyoming- have better overall records than the Utes or Horned Frogs.
Kickoff is at 6 PM Mountain Time on Versus. The Frogs won the last meeting in Fort Worth in 2005, 23-20 in overtime, while the Utes prevailed last year in Salt Lake 20-6.