Though it was far from perfect, I think the way Utah bounced back from their 14-point deficit makes this one of the best Ute games in recent years. I'm not sure when the last time Utah climbed back from a two-touchdown hole and actually won (maybe someone knows or can find out). Regardless, it was a huge win that gave this team the confidence I think they lacked during the 2005 rebuilding campaign. If anything, this season looks exactly the opposite of that one (Utah often led in many of those games they lost, blowing second-half leads multiple times).
Not this time, though - or so I hope.
Offense: B - They only really played poorly in the second quarter. The offense did have that inexcusable turnover at the start of the third, but beyond that, they were pretty consistent. I think when Shaky Smithson went out, it threw the coaches in a panic and they pulled away from Eddie Wide fearing a similar injury. Had Wide gone down, it's probably one of the most disastrous losses in recent history.
Now I don't know if that was their plan throughout the day (not giving Wide touches) or designed that way just for the second quarter, but it almost cost them. Regardless, the coaches wised up, played Wide and what do you know, the Utes' offense pretty much rolled.
One major reason for that success in the second half, however, comes down to Terrance Cain. He was amazing. Probably one of the best performances for a first-year quarterback in recent Utah history. I mean, he didn't make the mental mistakes that Grant Stucker did for the Rams and pretty much kept the offense pushing down the field in crunch time. A fantastic showing and hopefully this will be his coming out party.
Defense: B - I don't think the defense was overpowered by the Rams as much as some might indicate. Utah's defense only started stumbling when the offense had quick three and outs and turned the ball over. Which isn't a surprise, because when you're on the field for so long, you start getting gassed. Once the offense built some momentum, the defense stepped it up (well Robert Johnson, anyway) and preserved the Ute victory.
Though Colorado State has issues on the offensive end, I do believe they will be one of the best offenses Utah faces this season. So the fact they held them to 17-points, in their house, isn't entirely a bad thing.
Special Teams: B - Another B. I wasn't too disappointed with the special teams. I think the Utes returned punts and kickoffs well and pretty much kept the Rams' return team in check for most of the game. No missed field goals and extra points helps here.
- Dave Schramm: C-plus - I want to give him a B, but I don't know if I should. Mostly because I'm not clear if holding out Wide was a precaution or just a momentary lapse on his part. I will concede he stepped it up in the second half and pretty much called the needed plays to put Utah in scoring position.
- Kalani Sitake: B - I went over how the defense looked gassed in that second and early third quarter and I think that really had more to do with the offense than anything else. Once things started going well for the offense, the defense responded and kept the Rams scoreless on three consecutive drives at the end of the game.
- Kyle Whittingham: B-plus - With the team down 14, this game was getting out of control fast. It's the head coaches responsibility to rally the troops in such a scenario and Whittingham did just that. The fact it came on the road against a fairly decent opponent makes it all the more impressive.