Even though I wasn't very satisfied with the victory, I wasn't underwhelmed to the point where I thought this game deserved a bad grade.
I guess there is a kind of curve here due to it being the first game of the season, the first real competition Jordan Wynn has seen since last year's BYU game and the first game with a new offense. I knew, heading into this contest, that things wouldn't necessarily be pretty. It's hard to transition from one offense to the next without some hiccups.
Of course, I don't think it helped that Utah's opponent was a very good Bobcats team. Maybe very good is subjective, considering they're not at the FBS level, but after the Washington Huskies struggled with a team of Montana State's caliber, I felt relief that this game didn't come down to the fourth quarter.
Even with the Utes showing little offensive life in the second half, I never felt threatened by the Bobcats. The game was well in hand really even by the start of the second quarter and maybe that ultimately played a part in why Utah ambled through the remainder of the contest. It seemed, at least to me anyway, the team packed it in after scoring their third touchdown and coasted the remainder of the way.
But that's all speculation on my part. Without any other games this season to compare it to, we're left just hoping this performance was poor in the context of the overall situation - the fact it was a FCS opponent and that they were playing SC a week later.
I guess we'll get our answer this Saturday, but for now, I'm going to hold a bit more optimistic outlook on this game.
The grades after the jump...
Offense: B - The play calling might've been vanilla, but they didn't look terrible and that's not a bad thing for a first game where there has been so much transition. Jordan Wynn was money on a great deal of the short passes, but there is concern that he might not be able to throw the ball deep. Regardless, I felt he looked better in this game than he did for much of the second half of last season. While tentative and a bit panicky at times, there were no obvious mistakes that cost the team and I felt, when he ran the bootleg, he looked more confident than at any point post-Iowa State last year.
Given the offensive line depth issues, the offense performed well enough throughout the game and that can't be overlooked. Wynn was rushed a bit, but, like I said, didn't throw any interceptions and, for the most part, played cautious and far from erratic.
Then there was John White IV, who had a monster game. His performance Thursday put him seventh in the nation in rushing yards and might be the first downfield back Utah has seen in a long, long time. That was a big issue last season, as the offense couldn't rely on either Matt Asiata or Eddie Wide to create long, yard eating runs. White, at least against an inferior defense, did that well. I'm excited to see what he does against the Trojans - as this will be his first big game as a FBS starter.
Defense: B-plus - I liked the defense for most of this game. You could tell they were content with not shaking things up and really played it close to the vest. That caused some big plays in the second half for Montana State, but overall, they weren't really worked by the Bobcats. After watching some defenses give up considerable amount of yards to FCS teams (Oregon State, Washington), I like their performance even more.
It'll be interesting now how they come back and handle a far more talented offense this week. SC has one of the best receivers currently and will get their running back back for the Utah game, so the defensive line and secondary will certainly be tested.
Special Teams: B-plus - Last year, special teams were hit and miss, especially early in the season - where Utah had a blocked punt in a couple of their early games. That wasn't the case Thursday. I was glad to see their punts weren't blocked,
no bobbled punt returns and, most impressively, a blocked punt from Matt Martinez.
The biggest relief on special teams, though, came when Coleman Peterson connected on all three of his extra points and made two field goals - including one from 44 yards out. If you followed fall camp, this was one of the biggest areas of concern for the Utes. No to so on Thursday, though. Hopefully it continues.
- Norm Chow: B - Not the most inspiring offensive play calling in Utah football history, but maybe that was entirely by design. Like I said, this is all based on a curve and an untested idea that this Saturday will offer up more in the way of this department. If not, then we might revisit these rankings and grade 'em down for it.
- Kalani Sitake: B - The play calling was pretty conservative and that's all right. I don't think they needed to do anything pretty to stop the Bobcats' offense. Now comes the real test, though.
- Kyle Whittingham: B - Whittingham didn't allow his team to totally overlook Montana State and because of it, he's not trying to figure out how to save the season after a disastrous loss to a FCS school (as Oregon State's Mike Riley and Duke's David Cutcliffe are doing). Now hopefully he and his coaches can come up with a dynamite game plan for the Trojans.