Utah 27, Montana St. 10
John White rushed for 150 yards with two touchdowns in his major-college debut and converted linebacker Brian Blechen intercepted two passes as the Utah Utes opened with a 27-10 victory Thursday night over Montana State.
Blechen set up Utah's first score with a 35-yard interception return, and Matt Martinez set up the second with his second career blocked punt.
The win was Utah's first as a member of the Pac-12 Conference and helped the Utes improve to 10-0 against the Bobcats and 32-0 against Big Sky teams.
The road only gets tougher for the Utah, which opens Pac-12 play at USC next weekend before traveling to Provo for a game against BYU.
Quarterback Jordan Wynn was making his first start since December shoulder surgery that kept him out of the Las Vegas Bowl. While hardly spectacular, he managed the new pro-style offense under Norm Chow, completing 15 of 23 passes for 101 yards and two TDs, with no interceptions.
Sophomore DeNarius McGhee tossed a second-quarter TD for the Bobcats, who were without their leading rusher from a year ago and three projected offensive line starters
There were plenty of questions going into Thursday's game.
How would Utah's offense come together with a new coordinator and new running back?
Would Wynn's surgically repaired shoulder hold up?
And, finally, how would the Utes' revamped secondary fare against a player who was touted as one of the best quarterbacks in the FCS?
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham will certainly take the victory, but knows there's plenty of room for improvement with a wicked road ahead.
''We were running the ball pretty effectively in the first half,'' Whittingham said. ''Our defense did a nice job of setting up the first score, and special teams set up the second. But we've got to play with more urgency on offense. The tempo is too slow.''
The Utes were without starting left tackle John Cullen, who did not play because of a concussion but is expected back against the Trojans. They also lost left guard Vyncent Jones for a while in the first half.
White, who won the starting running back job during fall camp, was a bright spot offensively for the Utes.
The 2010 Central West Conference offensive player of the year at L.A. Harbor College went over 100 yards on the night with a 29-yard fourth-quarter run. The 5-foot-8, 186-pound scatback added a 25-yard gain in the closing minutes.
Blechen, whose overtime interception helped Utah upset 15th-ranked Pitt in last year's season-opener, was the defensive standout.
He added about 10 pounds to make the transition from safety to linebacker. Though he still showed plenty of quickness, covering slot receivers at times, he came up short of the end zone on his first interception.
Utah built a 24-0 second quarter lead, primarily controlling the ball on the ground.
Wynn found wide receiver DeVonte Christopher open across the middle for a 7-0 Utah lead. He tossed his second TD of the quarter, a 5-yarder to White, to cap a 9-play, 62-yard drive that put Utah ahead 14-0.
Coleman Petersen had battled Nick Marsh all camp for the right to be Utah's place-kicker. He won the battle and delivered, hitting a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter and a 44-yarder in the third.
Utah outgained Montana State 292-258 and held a 16-12 advantage in first downs.
Montana State, which won a share of the Big Sky title last season with a 9-3 record, still has never beaten a Pac-12 institution.
McGhee would finish with 183 yards passing, but was sacked twice, and didn't get much going until the second half. By then he was playing catch-up.
White started strong and never slowed.
''I'm so happy right now. I feel good,'' White said. ''I've been waiting a long time for this moment. We'll improve. That was just a taste of what's to come.''