SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Bryson Barnes had to be rushed to the hospital during the Oregon State game after suffering a brutal hit to his midsection in which he suffered badly bruised ribs.
Two weeks later, Barnes was back on the field, leading the Utes to their best offensive performance of the season against Cal in a 34-14 victory.
That kind of toughness didn’t surprise any of Barnes’ teammates.
“That guy there is tough as nails,” said running back Ja’Quinden Jackson. “I can’t even put it in words how tough he is.”
“When it comes to being tough, that’s just kind of the way you grow up,” said Barnes, who grew up in Milford on a pig farm. “In a small town, pig farm, things like that. I wrestled in high school, so you’ve got to be tough to be a wrestler. I’d say that’s where a lot of that came from.”
As far as coming back so soon with the rib injury, Barnes simply said, “you just play through it.”
With Cam Rising out still recovering from off-season knee surgery, Barnes was the starter in the season opener against Florida. After struggling in week two against Baylor, Barnes was benched in favor of Nate Johnson.
But after Johnson struggled in a loss to Oregon State, Barnes was back as the starter. During this rollercoaster of a ride, Barnes never got down on himself and stayed positive.
“There’s definitely frustration and stuff like that,” Barnes said. “But at the end of the day, the situation that you have, that’s what you have to deal with. You’ve got to control what you can control, and what I could control was myself and what I was doing in practice each and everyday.”
Barnes’ teammates saw his dedication and relentless work ethic, and weren’t surprised he played well against Cal.
“Even if we do have a bad play, you don’t see him pouting,” said wide receiver DeVaughn Vele. “You don’t see him getting sad our into himself too much. He’s always next play mentality.”
The Utah coaches have confidence in Barnes, as long as he doesn’t turn the ball over, just how he played against Cal. But they’d like to see him take more shots downfield like the 70-yard touchdown he threw on the first play of the season against Florida.
“He’s been in the program a long time, he knows the offense inside and out,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “He does a great job running the offense and managing the game. Before this game, he was a little inaccurate, but [against Cal] he was 70 percent plus. So I would think just being a little more confident in his ability to get the chunk yardage up the field.”
Barnes is expected to get another start this Saturday at USC.