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Grading the Poinsettia Bowl

7 straight and one of the best finishes of the bowl season so far. Can't really ask for a better way to kick off the bowl season, but it was far from being a great performance for the Utes.

Offense: C+ - I thought about giving Utah a B, but their performance in the first half really weighed down this score. In fact, I would say Utah's first half performance on offense was a big, fat F. The second half, however, was a different story, as the Utes had no trouble moving down field and getting into the end zone.

Brian Johnson had his best game since probably Louisville, as he was named the Poinsettia Bowl MVP. In the second half he actually looked like his old self and if BJ can perform like this next year, Utah will be mighty tough to beat.

Defense: B+ - Utah's defense was fantastic in the first half and pretty solid in the second. Yet I can't get over Navy's last touchdown, which got them back into the game. Utah is supposed to have one of the best secondaries in the nation and they were burned on that pass. In fact, there were a few passes they were burned on, but lucked out because of dropped passes on Navy's part. Give credit to Navy, though, since they shook things up offensively and Utah obviously was thrown off by the fact Navy went to the passing game more than they generally do.

However, when it comes to the option, Utah's defense played about as good as one could hope for. There were a few times where Navy broke a play for a big gain, but other than that, they were contained -- especially in the first half. The Utes also forced Navy into something they rarely saw this season, 3rd and longs. That ultimately kept Utah in it in the first half, as the offense needed to heavily rely on the defensive performance. Had Utah's defense struggled, Navy probably would have built a massive halftime lead and coasted to the victory.

Special Teams: C - The worst performance of the year for the Utes. Louie Sakoda looked, well, human out there and with the game on the line, the Utes gave up an onside kick. The Midshipmen set the special teams tone early, when they had a big return on Utah's opening kick. Luckily it didn't impact the final outcome and Utah was able to overcome those struggles.


  • Andy Ludwig: C+ - Give Ludwig some credit, he adjusted in the second half. Yet this game was essentially a microcosm of Ludwig's coaching over the past 3 years. Inconsistent. They had a horrible first half and a solid second half, but couldn't put together a complete game. Had Utah passed the ball more in the first half like they did in the second, the Utes would've cruised. But it was as if Utah played not to lose and that mindset nearly lost them the game.
  • Gary Andersen: B+ - Another solid performance by Andersen. Andersen is a fantastic defensive coordinator and hopefully Utah can hang onto him as long as possible. Navy is a tough team to plan defensive schemes for, but he did a bang-up job and it was pretty much his defense that kept Utah in the game early.
  • Kyle Whittingham: B - At the half, it looked like Whittingham was lost and confused, much like he was in the UNLV game. You could see it slipping, the confidence that we had seen from this team through 7 of the final 8 games of the season. Yet he pulled things back together, down 10, and Utah eventually won the game. Hopefully Whittingham has now exorcised his demons and Utah can now finally roll under his leadership.