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Until Saturday, Utah hadn’t played a 15s match since falling to Army in the Elite Eight last spring, but you wouldn’t know it just by looking at the 57-5 score they put on UC Santa Barbara in Mesquite, Nev. Despite the large final tally, the Utes, expected to contend for the inaugural CPL title later this spring, led just 17-0 at halftime.
“Especially after having the whole fall season off and not really being on the field that much, there were definitely some nerves, especially to get out and make some tackles and passes and things like that, but yeah, we all had a little butterflies going,” said Utah flanker and captain Danny James.
“I think we were expecting to have some mistakes, especially this being our first time out, but everybody responded really well to any adversity that we faced and we really just wanted to have a fun game out there and we did that, and I’m really pleased with the performance of the team.”
UCSB made the trip without head coach Kevin Battle, who stayed home to tend to a family issue. Due to injuries picked up during the USA U20 and High School All-American assemblies last week in Santa Barbara, the SoCal bunch was also without the services of a handful of starters and a few more contributors. Nonetheless, Utah had kind words for their opposition.
“They were a tough team. They came out running the ball, they wanted to take it really wide on us and they had some really fit, fast players,” James said.
“They’re a very good team at the breakdown, and you can tell they’re well coached and they know what they’re trying to do and things like that,” added Ute coach Blake Burdette. “I know that they’ve had some injuries and stuff, but we were pretty good on the day as well. I was pretty happy with our performance for our first time out. Now the key is how much do we improve from today until next week.”
Up next for Utah is the Pac10 Tournament hosted by UCLA next weekend. UCSB hosts Cal Poly Saturday.