SALT LAKE CITY — Three interceptions and a defensive touchdown was the difference as the Utah football team opened its 2015 season with a 24-17 victory over Michigan on Thursday evening in front of the largest crowd in Utah history (47,825).
Utah’s three interceptions came from Justin Thomas, Cory Butler-Byrd and Marcus Williams, with Thomas capping Utah’s scoring with a 55-yard touchdown return in the fourth quarter.
Travis Wilson went 24-for-33 for 208 yards at quarterback. His one interception of the game came on a jump ball at the end of the first half.
Devontae Booker led Utah with 124 yards of total offense, which included 69 yards rushing (22 carries) and 55 yards receiving (seven catches).
Britain Covey was strong in his first career game, catching five passes for 58 yards. He also had a 14-yard punt return. Wilson found eight different receivers on the night.
Michigan had 355 yards of total offense to Utah’s 337 yards, and each team came away with two offensive touchdowns and a field goal. Eighty of Michigan’s yards came on its final drive of the game, and the Utah defense held the Wolverines to just 76 yards rushing.
Gionni Paul led Utah with 14 tackles, tying his career high. Tevin Carter had nine tackles with a team-high 1.5 tackles for loss. Carter also had a pass breakup.
Utah is 3-1 all-time against Michigan and has a three-game winning streak in the series.
The teams traded field goals early before the Utes took their first lead of the game, 10-3, with Booker scoring his first touchdown of the season on a one-yard run after an 11-play, 75-yard drive. Booker had 19 yards of the drive while Covey’s first career catch went for 20 yards in the drive. Covey also had an eight-yard reception that was just shy of the end zone.
The Utes picked off the Wolverines twice in the first half. Michigan’s first offensive drive of the game ended when Buter-Byrd, making his first career start, had his first career interception. Marcus Williams had his second career pick in the second quarter for a 10-yard return. Utah held Michigan to just 25 yards rushing in the first half.
Michigan came out of the locker room after halftime energized and put together an 11-play, 49-yard drive over 5:02 that ended in a missed field goal.
Utah responded with a long drive of its own, going up 17-3 after a 14-yard touchdown rush by Wilson with 5:49 left in the half following a 10-play, 74-yard drive over 4:09. Harrison Handley’s 18-yard catch — his first career reception — brought Utah inside the red zone and Covey had a 15-yard catch during the drive.
Michigan scored its first touchdown of the game on its next drive following a 12-play, 75-yard drive over 5:03 for a 19-yard TD pass with 46 seconds left in the third quarter and bringing Utah’s lead within a touchdown, 17-10. The Wolverine drive got new life following a Utah personal foul penalty on third down just before the touchdown.
The Utah defense got into the scoring in the fourth quarter, as Thomas picked off a pass with 7:58 left in the game and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown, giving Utah a 24-10 advantage. It was his first career interception and first career touchdown. Utah’s defense again came up big on Michigan’s next drive, holding the Wolverines on fourth down at the Utah 35-yard line.
Michigan scored with 54 seconds remaining in the game after a nine-play, 80-yard drive over 1:52. Utah came up with the subsequent onsides kick.
Utah returns to action on Friday, Sept. 11, against Utah State. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. MT on ESPN2.