#6 Utah overcame a poor first-half performance to beat #13 Arizona 46-19 Saturday. The Utes stumbling out of the blocks has become a recent trend, and one coach Blake Burdette has marked as a priority to fix.
“I don’t know what's going on,” he said. “This is the third game in a row that this has happened to us, where we start slow in the first half and then we have a really good second half. I don’t know if it’s the halftime speech or something, but we’re just not starting off in the first half like we should be.
“We are falling off tackles a little bit in the first half, and the intesnity’s just not there. It takes somebody to get in the guys’ faces at halftime to get them to have a little intensity. I don’t know if we need to do that in the first half, but we’ve got to get it right next week going agianst Colorado.”
The Utes led at halftime, despite the slow start, 15-12, and exploded after the intermission, outscoring the Wildcats 31-7 in the second stanza.
“We stuck to our stystems in the second half. There are some things we did really well in the second half, and we were able to create some space and exploit it,” said Burdette. “That was the difference. In the first half we didn’t s tick to what we were trying to do, but it in the second half we did and the guys were a little more disciplined on it.”
One of those who played with more structure in the second half was scrumhalf Sione Lauti, who’s filling in for the minorly injured Don Pati.
“When he runs the system, he does a lot of extra things that you really like, and if he sees a hole he’s able to pick it up and hit it quick,” said Burdette of Lauti. “He played with some guts today. He has a lot of things he needs to work on, but he played with some guts, and that’s a good thing.”
Unlike Burdette, Wildcat coach Dave Sitton was pleased with his first-half performance, not his second. “We played very hard and were in position to win the match,” he said. “We made too many errors in the second half. We must improve on that.”
Arizona played Saturday without the services of a few of their own usual starters. Chief among them being Peter Tiberio, who is with the 7s Eagles in Adelaide.
With the win, Utah controls its own destiny. Two losses make Arizona a longshot to contend for the West’s second playoff bid, and the Utes hold the head-to-head advantage over Arizona State, 2-1. Unless Utah falls to Colorado, Colorado State, Wyoming or Air Force, or Arizona State upsets BYU (which both scenarios seem unlikely) then the Utes will advance to the postseason.