I don't think anyone expected the Utes to lose to UNLV Saturday. The Rebels, while potentially improving down the road, were nowhere near the level needed to walk into Salt Lake City and win over the weekend.
This game wasn't really about UNLV. It wasn't about the prospects of a loss. It was entirely about how Utah would look against an opponent they should have easily beat.
Fortunately, that's exactly what the Utes did. In fact, the margin against the Rebels was the largest of the Kyle Whittingham era. You have to go all the way back to 2004's 63-31 drubbing to find a larger margin. So there's that.
The Utes might've not looked perfect, but a 38-10 win is still a 38-10 win. I'll take it.
The grades after the jump...
Offense: B - I thought the offense was pretty effective. Terrance Cain did a great job at replacing Jordan Wynn for this game and the Utes made minimal offensive mistakes. I'd wager this was probably Cain's best game as a Ute, which says a lot about the progress he's made since last season.
The biggest thing about this offense, however, is that it isn't one-dimensional. Cain did a good enough job distributing the ball to Utah's wide receivers. While Jereme Brooks might be the leader, as DeVonte Christopher proved last week and Shaky Smithson proved this week, there are multiple weapons capable of getting out into the secondary and making big plays.
That's huge for the Utes because the biggest questions about the offense surrounded the receivers.
Defense: B - In the first half, the defense didn't look entirely solid. They continually gave up big plays on third downs and though the Rebels had a difficult time sustaining drives, their total yards on the game, 319, was probably a bit more than most of us expected prior to the game.
With that said, the defense might've bent a lot Saturday, but they never broke. They kept UNLV's offense out of the end zone and that's always impressive. Especially when you consider UNLV has averaged 24 points against Utah since 2005.
I was disappointed with the lack of big plays by the defense. Against the Rebels, I kind of expected at least one interception and potentially one hit that led to a major fumble. But again, it's hard to find much to not like from a defense that holds its opponent to essentially 3 points.
Special Teams: C - The second week in a row where special teams left a lot to be desired. This could have been much worse if it weren't for Smithson's two huge returns and the forced fumble on a punt return by UNLV.
Once again, Utah had a punt blocked. This time, though, it resulted in a touchdown. Against UNLV, it isn't a big deal. Against a team that is average or better, it could come back to bite 'em in the ass.
And that's the biggest concern about the 2010 Utes right now. They need to figure out this special teams mess because if they don't, this season is going to be shot to hell against an opponent we probably should defeat (I'm thinking Iowa State, maybe Air Force or San Diego State).
If there is one major concern about Kyle Whittingham, it's the lack of any progress with the special teams play. This is an issue that has haunted the Utes since his first season in 2005 and nothing has changed. They have not improved one bit in the last five years and I'm starting to think they never will.
Not that they have to be perfect. I get we'll never again see Urban Meyer-era special teams play. But two blocked punts in two games is inexcusable.
- Aaron Roderick: B - The play calling wasn't bad. The offense did what it had to do and I don't think you can ask for much more. With Wynn out, it's hard to know what the potential of this offense really is and we probably won't know for at least a couple more weeks.
- Kalani Sitake: B - Nothing to complain about from the defensive side. I did most of that above. I thought Sitake coached them up well and the Rebels really never could produce much on offense outside of yards. I'll trade a ton of yards for few points every single time.
- Kyle Whittingham: B - He had his troops ready to go and they won a game they should have won. They didn't look down right scary good, but they also didn't stumble around against a clearly inferior opponent like we've seen in years past.