Booker's 156 yards, 2 TDs lead No. 21 Utah past Fresno St
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) Devontae Booker and Utah's defense and special teams made sure the 21st-ranked Utes didn't miss injured starting quarterback Travis Wilson in their first road game of the season.
Booker ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns, and Utah had two scores on special teams and one on defense in a 45-24 victory over Fresno on Saturday night.
The Utes (3-0) remained perfect heading into their Pac-12 opener at No. 12 Oregon next weekend.
''We got the nonconference sweep,'' said backup quarterback Kendal Thompson, who made the start ahead while Wilson sat out with a sprained left shoulder. ''The main stat is the win-loss column.''
Despite the dominance the Utes showed against Fresno State, coach Kyle Whittingham knows they'll need to play a cleaner game to contend against the Ducks.
''There was some good, there was some bad, we got sloppy at the end, which was unfortunate,'' Whittingham said. ''So some give and take there.''
Booker had some extra incentive against a Bulldogs team that initially recruited him out of high school but later pulled its scholarship offer.
''It was devastating when they did that,'' Booker said. ''Heartbreaking . I was extremely motivated, knowing I was going to come out here and get a lot of touches.
''I think I met the requirements against them.''
The senior running back ran 10 times on Utah's opening drive, which was capped by Andy Phillips' 33-yard field goal that tied the score 3-3 with 4:14 left in the first quarter.
Utah defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu recovered a fumble by Fresno State quarterback Chason Virgil on a sack and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown to put the Utes (3-0) up 10-3 less than two minutes later.
Booker's most spectacular play then came on a middle draw as he bounced outside, spun through a low tackle and powered 30 yards for a touchdown and 17-3 lead late in the second third quarter.
He added a 7-yard touchdown run, untouched over center, in the third quarter to make it 24-3.
The defense and special teams made sure that was more than enough, handing the Bulldogs their 21st straight defeat against a ranked opponent.
After Fresno State (1-2) pulled to 24-10 on Zack Greenlee's 5-yard pass to Josiah Blandin early in the fourth, Cory Butler-Bird returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. Following the Bulldogs' next possession, Utah's Britain Covey scored on a 77-yard punt return to make it 38-10 with about 9 minutes remaining.
Fresno State got off to a good start, though, as DaMari Scott knocked the ball loose from Utes returner Tyson Cisrow on the opening kickoff and Bulldogs teammate George Helmuth recovered at the Utah 17.
With Virgil - a true freshman, making his first college start, the Bulldogs went three-and-out and settled for Kody Kroening's 35-yard field goal. It was Fresno State's first lead against a power-five conference team since the 2013 season opener.
Virgil completed 11 of 25 passes for 97 yards and no turnovers before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury early in the fourth quarter. Greenlee came in and finished the series with the touchdown pass to Blandin.
Greenlee added scoring passes of 82 and 32 yards about a minute apart midway through the fourth quarter - thanks to an onside kick - to pull the Bulldogs to 38-24. However, that was as close as they got.
''We've got some things to clean up,'' Tu'ikolovatu said. ''I think we were sleeping on them a little bit at the end.''
Greenlee completed 6 of 10 passes for 144 yards and the three scores, and Marteze Waller ran 16 times for 69 yards.
Thompson's 5-yard touchdown pass to Harrison Handley with 14 seconds left closed the scoring.