Utes prepare for early home opener against Northern Illinois


Utes take on the Huskies Saturday at 11:00 at Rice-Eccles Stadium

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – It’s going to be breakfast with the Utes.

Utah kicks off its home opener against Northern Illinois at 11:00 a.m. Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Kyle Whittingham is a fan of these early starts.

“Well, number one, not having to sit around all day,” Whittingham said. “That’s the the biggest advantage is you wake up, you get going and you don’t have to sit around for hours on end waiting for kickoff.”

“When I was little, growing up, you play at 11 o’clock or play at 8 o’clock, so it’s more fun,” said safety Julian Blackmon, who had a pick-6 against BYU. “I guess always fun, but it will be just as fun.”

Utes fans had fun watching Zack Moss back on the field after a season-ending knee injury, tearing through the BYU defense for 187 yards. Moss is now just 382 yards away from passing Eddie Johnson to become the Utes all-time leading rusher. But Moss is not thinking about that just yet.

“It’s pretty cool to know that is there throughout the course of the year, but that’s not the number one goal for myself or this team,” said Moss. “Whatever we do at the end of the year, wherever I’m sitting at, then I’ll sit back and relish where I am. But as we go through the weeks, it’s not on my mind right now.”

“It should just be a matter of time, barring something unforeseen, when he takes over the number one spot,” said Whittingham. “That’s a really good accomplishment when you look at all the backs that have come through here.”

Northern Illinois may not have the cache of a Pac-12 team, but the Huskies gave the Utes everything they could handle last year before the Utes finally pulled away after a Chase Hansen pick-6, 17-6.

So, the Utes definitely will not be overlooking NIU.

“The main thing that’s got our attention is that last year we escaped by the skin of our teeth with a win,” Whittingham said.

“They’re tough and they’re smart,” Blackmon said. “You can have all the athletes in the world, but if you don’t have smart athletes, where are you going to go? They have smart athletes.”

“I really don’t know why that game was so difficult,” Moss said. “We definitely don’t want to go out there and give our fans the same show. We’ll be way more prepared this year and ready to go out the right way.”

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