Run the ball and stop the run.
It’s the oldest cliche in football in terms of what it takes to win games, and one that is greatly disputed by many of the number crunchers who have changed the way the sport is viewed in the modern era.
Utah made the formula look downright irrefutable in a 45-10 thumping of Colorado State on Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The Utes racked up a Las Vegas Bowl-record 359 rushing yards in the lopsided victory. No. 23 Utah was just as dominant defensively.
Colorado State managed just 12 net yards on 19 carries.
“Anytime you can make a team one-dimensional, it obviously works in your favor,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “You can really make a statement, and our defense did a great job of doing exactly that.”
It helped that the Utes were able to get an early lead in the game.
Utah quarterback Travis Wilson ran for the first of his three touchdowns just 2:23 into the game. He finished with 91 yards on the ground.
“It really seemed the running game was working for me, and we definitely took advantage of it,” Wilson said.
It was the second time in his career Wilson had run for three touchdowns in a game, matching the feat he first pulled off against Oregon State in 2013.
Whittingham said Wilson’s legs are an underrated aspect of his game.
“He’s been a productive runner ever since he got on campus. I’m not going to say it’s his absolute strength, but he’s a capable runner,” the coach said. “He’s deceptive. He’s moving a lot faster and covering a lot more ground than it looks like out there.”
After Wilson set the tone, Utah turned to a more known commodity to carry the load.
With the Utes leading 14-7 later in the opening quarter, Devontae Booker burst through the line on a 60-yard touchdown run.
It was just the start for Booker, who finished with 162 yards on the ground in the win.
Booker said the success in the running game was nothing new for Utah.
“All year we ran on teams,” said Booker, who finished the year with 1,512 yards, just seven yards short of the school’s single-season record. “It was a heck of an accomplishment for me and my team and especially my offensive line.”
Utah set a team bowl record with five rushing touchdowns in the game.
The offensive dominance on the ground only told one side of the story. The Utes’ ability to stop the run was equally as important to the lopsided final score.
“We got beat by a better football team today,” Colorado State interim coach Dave Baldwin said. “They were more physical than us; I think they were faster than us.”
The 12 rushing yards Utah allowed was the lowest total it had allowed all season and set a team mark for the all-time low for a bowl game. It was also Colorado State’s worst output of the season.
Utah defensive end Nate Orchard said even though the numbers showed it was a superlative performance, the effort was the same .
“(We play) relentless defense,” he said. “That’s what we do.”
Orchard cited Utah’s early lead as a contributing factor in making it easier on the defense to take Colorado State out of the running game.
Baldwin felt it was more just a matter of not finding a solution.
“Us not being able to run the ball and them running the way they did were huge factors,” he said. “We just not not find a way. We tried with some different formations. We just couldn’t figure it out.”
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.