Matt Asiata's injury aside, this was a really good win for Utah and a big step in the right direction. I feel better today, especially with what Oregon did to Cal, than I did at any point this season. Now comes the tough part - sustaining this success.
Thankfully, Utah has a bye-week, which means they can look at what went right and still fix what went wrong before taking on Colorado State in a crucial conference tilt. It's always nice entering a week off on the heels of a victory and I think that bye comes at the perfect time, since now the Utes will be looking for a new running back and their two go-to guys at the moment, Sausan Shakerin and Eddie Wide, are a bit banged up (Shak taking the brunt of it).
Offense: B-plus - I'm in a generous mood. I do believe the offense could have played better, but they looked sharp. Especially when you realize they played nearly the entire game without their leading running back and hardly any real depth at that position. Wide, who has shown some good signs this season, stepped up and filled the role vacated by the Asiata injury quite well.
Clearly this was the best offensive performance of the season by the Utes, especially for Terrance Cain. Cain had two touchdowns and was 17-22 for 202-yards. A damn near perfect game all around, though he did have an interception that resulted in a Louisville score.
Beyond that, Wide, as I mentioned, played well with all things considered. He ran for a game-high 129-yards and though he didn't score, Wide was instrumental in sustaining drives. Hopefully he can continue this the remainder of the season.
Defense: B-plus - I felt the defense played its most complete game Saturday. They weren't perfect, but if you look at the box score, it really is hard to find anything to complain about.
For starters, they held the vaunted running attack of Louisville's Victor Anderson to 22-yards and overall, the Cardinals only managed 261-yards, or only slightly more than Cain had combined in both passing and rushing (253).
If it weren't for Cain's turnover, Louisville probably only scores 7 and even that took a bit of luck. The fact is, beyond their first drive of the game, the Cardinals could not get anything going and I give credit to Utah's defense for not allowing them to build long and sustained drives. Especially when the game was still up for grabs early.
Utah also forced three turnovers and it seems that's one thing this defense might be good at and hopefully something established the further the season progresses.
Special Teams: B - After an abortion last week, Utah's special teams played well. They had a huge FG block, which set the tone, didn't miss a field goal and it seems every time the Utes kicked it off or punted, there was rarely a deep return.
In fact, I think most of the punts/kick offs weren't returned for any yards.
Good bounce back for the special teams and hopefully proves last week's disaster was more a fluke than anything else.
- Dave Schramm: B-plus - No complaints about the play calling. I think he did a good job and exploited the weakness of Louisville's defense. What's more, it didn't seem like Utah sat on a lead and that's big because I think Andy Ludwig, at times, did that and it often came back to bite the Utes in the butt. Instead, Utah managed 10-fourth quarter points even though the game felt over entering the final period.
- Kalani Sitake: B-plus - Again, no complaints here. If you look at the statistics, you see the Utes' defense pretty much dominated the Cardinals' offense. Sitake deserves credit for shoring up Utah's run d, which was exposed a bit last week against Oregon.
- Kyle Whittingham: A - Utah was coming off a tough loss and bounced back with a big win. I remember in 2005 when the Utes faced their first loss of the season (which also ended their winning streak) and how much they struggled, at home, against the Air Force Falcons. It was a game they dominated early and barely won. I think it showed just how much the team was losing confidence in themselves and subsequently, they went on a three-game losing streak after that victory. I don't foresee a similar scenario this season.
This was Whittingham's 40th victory at Utah, making him the fastest coach to win 40-games in Ute football history. The Utes didn't play perfect, but they played better than they have all season. For a team that struggled in its first three weeks, that's a step in the right direction.
What do you grade the victory?