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The University of Utah's defense was good enough to keep Montana State at arm's length during Thursday night's 27-10 win at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

But will a similar effort prevent the Utes from being run over next week at USC?

Probably not.

The Bobcats finished with 258 yards of offense and held the ball for almost 17 minutes in the second half.

On the other hand, the Utes allowed only one long touchdown drive and Montana State gained just 33 yards in the first quarter, when Utah jumped to an insurmountable 17-0 lead.

"We made plays when we needed to," said senior defensive end Derrick Shelby. "But there were still some missed opportunities out there. A couple of times we let the quarterback get out. So we just have to tighten it up next week."

Bobcat quarterback DeNarius McGhee completed 16 of 29 passes for 183 yards. But he gained only six yards rushing.

"He's fairly decent — fairly mobile," said Shelby. "But we corralled him most of the night [and] got the job done."

Head coach Kyle Whittingham agreed: "That's a pretty good quarterback — one of the best in Division 1-AA. He didn't hurt us too much, though."

Whittingham's biggest concern about his defense resulted from Montana State's eight-play, 79-yard scoring drive at the end of the first half.

A McGhee-to-Tanner Bleskin touchdown pass with 35 seconds left made it 24-7 and gave Montana State some life.

"Disappointing," Whittingham said. "We should not let that happen against any opponent. Unacceptable. You can't let a team sustain a drive like that."

Utah's brightest spot on defense was safety-turned-linebacker Brian Blechen, who had both of Utah's interceptions.

"I thought we played well," he said. "We did a lot of good stuff. The letdown came on a couple of big plays. We just have to clean that up."

According to Blechen, the Utes survived a mild case of "first-game nerves" but promised, "from now on, we'll be rolling."

From the sideline, quarterback Jordan Wynn liked what he saw from the defense, which he said "played lights out. They gave us field position all night." —

Examing the defense

Utah's leading tacklers Thursday night:

Player Position Solo Assists Total Sacks

Chaz Walker LB 5 5 10 0

Eric Rowe DB 3 6 9 0

Ryan Lacy DB 5 3 8 1

Brian Blechen LB 2 5 7 0

Michael Walker DB 0 5 5 0