I was unsure if I wanted to actually think about the contest enough to grade it - but I think it's needed. I didn't grade the New Mexico game because I spent most of last week hyping up this one and it's hard to just forget it ever happened. It did happen and though I don't think the loss is crippling, it certainly exposed some issues that will have to be corrected if the Utes are going to return to the top of the Mountain West next year and even win the Holy War and their bowl game this year.
What I do know is that nearly everything pretty much failed Saturday. It was ugly. Extremely ugly from the point Utah tied the game up at 7-7 and it never really got any better. Rarely have we seen our Utes get completely whooped for the entirety of a game. What happened Saturday was just that and more. It was probably the worst defeat we've seen out of Utah since failing to Rice in 1996 (I guess there is something about Texas schools). Hopefully we have to wait at least another ten years before witnessing something this ugly again (ideally, it'd never happen, but that's unlikely).
Regardless, Utah is still 8-2 and the season has not been lost. The next two weeks and the bowl game will go along way toward easing the pain Saturday caused.
The grades for TCU after the jump...
Offense: C - The offense wasn't good. With that said, they could have been a lot worse. Unfortunately, I still think there are some major issues that need to be addressed. They start with the offensive line, which failed at protecting Jordan Wynn for most of the game. Granted, Jerry Hughes and TCU's defense is quick and sick, but there is no excuse for their total lack of protection in that game. It was embarrassing how quickly things went to hell once the ball was snapped.
On the other hand, Wynn handled it pretty well. He took the sacks and did throw an ugly interception, but much of his struggles Saturday were due to the offensive line and not his own doing. Had they provided him a bit more protection, I think the offense moves a bit more than it actually did.
Defense: D-minus - Ugly! The defense was probably the worst I've seen since that Rice game I mentioned earlier. Giving up 55-points is ridiculous and I don't care if that came against the 4th best team in the nation. Kyle Whittingham teams do not give up 40-points in many games, let alone allow a team to crack a half-hundred.
Granted, much of their struggles came from the special teams forcing a short field, but there is no excuse for that performance. They were dominated nearly every time TCU had the ball and on a few key drives (namely the first of the game and the one right after Utah scored to tie) were far too easy.
This defense has been pretty good all season and it collapsed Saturday. I was shocked at how badly they played up front and how poor they were once TCU moved into the secondary. I don't know if it was entirely about the plays or the effort, but something has to change before BYU or the Cougars will have no difficulty moving the ball on Utah.
Special Teams: F - Do I really need to get into all the special team deficiencies? Yeah, I didn't think so.
- Aaron Roderick: C - Hard to get a read on the play calling when you're facing such a tough defense. I didn't think it was entirely bad and the fact the Utes struggled sustaining a ground game probably didn't help. As I said earlier, much of their struggles on the offensive end began with the line and the blame there falls at the feet of Blake Miller.
- Kalani Sitake: D - I think there is some obvious growing pains here. Sitake is not at the level Gary Andersen was as Utah's defensive coordinator and definitely not nearly as good as Whittingham. But this is his first year and because of that, I've got to think things will improve the more experience he gets. At least I hope so.
- Kyle Whittingham: C-minus - I think this might be the lowest grade I've ever given Whittingham. I fault him for the lack of energy out of the gate. The Utes came out looking listless and it cost them early. Whittingham has padded his resume with wins in big games, so I was shocked to see how scared and uninterested Utah looked from the start. TCU took it to the next level and Utah didn't. That is rare for the Utes.
Overall, I was disappointed with the effort. TCU is a very good team (maybe the best in the nation), but I can't say we're bad enough to lose by nearly 30-points to them. Certainly we could have held them to a respectable offensive number and even that didn't happen.
There were some bright spots on the offensive end and I do have confidence Wynn can move the ball against weaker defenses (cough, BYU), but the defense does have me concerned. And right now, that's something I never thought I'd say. It really is a foreign concept for Utah football.