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Kicker Sakoda becomes Utah's top scorer as Utes easily handle FCS Wildcats

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah welcomed back former coach Ron McBride with a compilation of highlights from his 13 seasons with the Utes, then showed him just how strong the program is still going.

The No. 17 Utes beat McBride's Weber State team 37-21 Saturday night, avoiding any hiccups against their Championship Subdivision neighbors and remaining unbeaten for next week's game against Oregon State, which upset top-ranked Southern California on Thursday night.

"Our football team understands that there's a big game in five days. We've got to be ready for that," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.

Louie Sakoda kicked three field goals and four extra points to become the leading scorer in Utah history. Brian Johnson threw for two touchdowns and Matt Asiata ran for two for Utah (5-0), which scored 30 straight points after the Wildcats (3-2) tied it at 7 late in the first quarter.

The Utes also got to rest their starters for the fourth quarter. The reserves gave up two late touchdowns, including one with 12 seconds remaining, to make the score closer than the game really was.

"We wanted to jump on them early and play efficient in the first half. We did that. We got the win and now we've got a big one coming up next week," said Johnson, who was 18-for-22 for 194 yards.

Asiata and Darrell Mack didn't take their usual pounding. Mack carried just 12 times for 58 yards and Asiata had 10 carries for 37 yards.

Sakoda seemed to have one of the busiest nights. He was 10 points from tying the school scoring record before the game and broke it with a 38-yarder early in the fourth quarter.

"Scoring records aren't something a kicker should think about because you could jinx yourself with that," said Sakoda, 7-for-7 inside 40 yards this season. "It's definitely cool to have your name down in school history, but it's not something to focus on, especially when you have the Beavers coming in here in five days."

It was homecoming for McBride, who coached Utah from 1990-2002. Utah showed a short video honoring McBride before the game and McBride waved to the applauding fans from the sideline opposite of where he spent so long building Utah into a contender.

"That tribute at the beginning of the game, I thought that was awesome. It made me feel real happy," said McBride, who is in his fourth season at Weber State. "It was nice to know people remember me around here and that I did something good here."

But his new program couldn't quite match up with his old one.

The Utes were never in much jeopardy of being upset and outgained Weber State 450-359, but a good chunk of the Wildcats' total came against the Utes' reserves. The Wildcats, who fell to 0-3 against Utah, gained 154 yards in the fourth quarter

Cameron Higgins finished 24-of-38 for 303 yards and three touchdowns, and Tim Toone had six catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. Higgins' added a 7-yard touchdown pass to Bryant Eteuati with 12 seconds to go.

McBride was coaching his first game in Rice-Eccles Stadium since 2002, when he was fired after a 5-6 season. Higgins said the coach teared up during his pregame speech in the visitors' locker room.

"It kind of brought out the best in us. We want to fight until the end for this guy," Higgins said.

Johnson finished 18-for-22 with one interception on a pass was tipped as he threw it. He had a 6-yard touchdown pass to Colt Sampson and a 10-yard pass to Bradon Godfrey with 43 seconds left in the second quarter to give Utah a 24-7 halftime lead.

Sakoda entered 10 points away from tying Frank Christensen's school record of 235 career points, set from 1930-32. Sakoda had four extra points and field goals of 33 and 47 yards and was tied with Christensen by the end of the third quarter. Early in the fourth with Utah already up 34-7, Sakoda added his 38-yarder to set the mark.

The Utes were conservative most of the night, but did trick up the Wildcats in the first quarter.

Receiver Jereme Brooks got the ball on a reverse and threw it to backup quarterback Corbin Louks, who had to lunge in order to make the catch. He held on and ran it to the 1-yard line, where Asiata scored on the next play to put Utah up 7-0 with 2:59 left in the first quarter.

Weber State tied it at 7 on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Higgins to Toone with 55 seconds left in the first quarter.