By KAREEM COPELAND/AP Sports Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Running back Devontae Booker had 124 combined yards and a touchdown and Utah spoiled Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan coaching debut, beating the Wolverines 24-17 on Thursday night.READ MORE: Consumer Alert: How To Avoid Fake N95, KN95 Masks
The Utes took a 24-10 lead on Justin Thomas’ 55-yard interception return for a touchdown with 7:58 left in the fourth quarter in the opener for both teams.
Harbaugh, the former Michigan quarterback who returned to his alma mater eight months ago after leaving the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, faced many of the same issues that plagued former coach Brady Hoke.
Quarterback Jake Rudock beat out Shane Morris for the start and the Iowa transfer had a reputation for limiting turnovers. Rudock promptly threw three against Utah, and finished 27 for 43 for 279 yards and two touchdowns. Michigan was held to 355 yards, gaining only 76 on the ground.
Booker overcame a slow start to finish with a team-high seven catches for 55 yards and added 69 yards rushing. Travis Wilson threw for 208 yards and ran for 53 yards and a touchdown.
De’Veon Smith led Michigan with 17 carries, but averaged just 2.8 yards. Harbaugh rolled in backups Ty Isaac and Derrick Green and they didn’t fare any better. Michigan had the No. 64 rush offense in 2014 and things didn’t look any better against Utah.READ MORE: Flint Public Schools Staying Virtual Indefinitely Due To Large Amount Of Positive COVID-19 Cases
Linebacker Gionni Paul had a game-high 14 tackles for Utah.
Marcus Williams and Cory Butler-Bryd joined Thomas with interceptions as Rudock was held in check. His lone touchdown pass came with 54 seconds left – and into triple coverage. Tight end Jake Butt made a great play, leaping over a defender for the score.
The Utes entered with questions at quarterback also, but Wilson did exactly what the team needed – take care of the ball and be enough of a threat to keep teams from loading up against Booker. He was able to do that and more against a Wolverine team that focused on the run game. Wilson didn’t aggressively push the ball down the field, but took check-downs and threw short routes to Booker and others.
Utah took a 17-3 lead in the third quarter after Wilson faked a handoff to Booker on first down from the 14-yard line and the entire Michigan defense flowed with him to the left. Wilson kept the ball and sprinted up the middle of the field untouched for a 14-yard touchdown.
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