No. 12 Utah hopes to have some of its injured players back in action — perhaps even quarterback Cameron Rising — as it travels to Waco, Texas, to play battered and ego-bruised Baylor on Saturday.
This will be the first-ever meeting on the gridiron between the two programs.
The Utes (1-0) waylaid Florida 24-11 at home last Thursday, using the combination of backup quarterbacks Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson to do just enough on offense to beat the Gators.
Barnes passed for 159 yards, including a 70-yard TD to Money Parks on the Utes’ first play from scrimmage, and ran for another score. Johnson pitched in 51 total yards (45 of them rushing) and a touchdown.
Rising has been cleared for full contact after rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in last year’s Rose Bowl game. His status for Baylor will be determined by game time. He was one of eight players from the Utes’ projected two-deep roster to miss the Florida game with an injury.
“It was a good win for our program on Thursday night,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday. “We certainly played a lot better on defense than we did in the previous year (against Florida), and that was really the storyline of the game.”
Utah’s defense held Florida to just 1-for-13 on third-down conversions and 13 yards on the ground. The Utes also amassed five sacks, seven tackles for loss and an interception in the dominating defensive performance.
“We will move on to another Power Five program in Baylor this week,” Whittingham said. “We are very confident that they are going to be a much-improved team between Week 1 and Week 2. … So, we are going to have to play exceptionally well and have a great week of preparation just like we have to every single week.”
The Bears (0-1) are licking their wounds after a stunning 42-31 loss to Texas State at home last Saturday. Baylor racked up 524 yards of total offense despite losing starting quarterback Blake Shapen to a knee injury midway through the fourth quarter.
By the time he was forced to the sideline, Shapen had thrown for 303 yards and two TDs and ran for another score. He was replaced by Mississippi State transfer Sawyer Robertson, who threw for 113 yards on the Bears’ final two drives before both ended in turnovers.
Baylor coach Dave Aranda said Monday that Shapen would miss 2-3 weeks with an MCL sprain. He also ruled out starting safety Devin Lemear due to an elbow injury.
“We’re working through those injuries, and we’ll be with those guys as they rehab and get back into playing shape and all of it,” Aranda added. “(I’m) excited about the guys we’ve got and looking forward to their efforts this week.”
Aranda said he expected improvement across the board from his team and added that it would be especially needed from the offensive line.
“It’s going to be demanded that we improve,” Aranda said. “I feel like from that hard lesson that we had Saturday, moving forward throughout the week, that we’ll see some good improvement.”
Saturday’s game is the second of four at home to start the season for the Bears. Baylor has eight home contests on its schedule in 2023.
–Field Level Media