It wasn't a great game all around, but it's hard for me to dwell on the negatives, not when you defeat a top-25 team in their house. Especially if they're named Michigan.
This is the type of win that great teams build on and use for a springboard to a great season. Hopefully the Utes do just that. But for now, let's just look at the grades.
Offense: B - This would have been an easy A if the game had ended at the half, however, the struggles in the second half drop this down to B. Even though the sloppy play made the game far closer than it should have been, it really doesn't negate the fact Brian Johnson had an amazing statistical game. Yeah, the offensive line got worked in the 3rd and 4th quarters, but I doubt they'll be seeing a defensive line as fast and skilled as Michigan the rest of the season.
I've also got to give credit to Matt Asiata, who was starting in his first game since going down against Oregon State a year ago. The fact he got through this contest uninjured is a huge step in the right direction.
Defense: A - Wow, what a defensive effort by the Utes. They were nearly flawless the entire game, as they shut down Michigan's vaunted running game and kept the Wolverines' inexperienced quarterbacks stuck in neutral for most of the game. I knew Utah had a good secondary, but their run defense looks a ton better than last year, which means this team very well may have the workings on both sides of the ball to get the job done. And dare I say the potential to have one of the best defenses in recent history?
Special Teams: D - Louie Sakoda was on, but a blocked field goal and punt really hurt Utah and nearly cost them the game. Imagine if the defense had one letdown late in the fourth and Michigan had just enough offense to get into the field goal range...that missed PAT would have haunted Utah all season long. The Utes also fumbled a punt return and had some terrible kickoff coverage, allowing Michigan to get well beyond the 20. Luckily, these mistakes didn't cost Utah the game, but they need to be worked on, because special teams could be the difference between 12-0 and 9-3.
Andy Ludwig: B-minus - Ludwig called a great first half, but the second half wasn't nearly as good. I think they did go a bit too conservative, though I don't think that was the entire problem. I'm willing to give Ludwig some slack here because I think the offensive line just plain wore down as the game progressed. I also don't think all the problems are his alone, but if he can call the rest of the season like he did the first half of the Michigan game, Utah will be a great team.
Gary Andersen: A - I think Andersen is one of the best assistant coaches in the nation and his defense just played lights out the entire game. Not much to say other than they continue to impress.
Kyle Whittingham: A - He finally had this team ready to go against a solid BCS team on the road. No letdown here, no collapse when things got rough. I think this could be a turning point for Whittingham - at least I hope it is.
A good game and a good start to what I hope is a great season. What're your grades for the Michigan game?