WHAT A FINISH! One thing is for sure, when Utah matches up with Oregon State, fireworks are sure to follow and last night was no exception. What we witnessed in the late hours of Thursday night was a "throwback" of sorts. A defensive showdown rather than a struggle. While the offense ultimately won the game on the back and legs of Devontae Booker, the defensive unit was the saving grace of yet another thrilling Utah victory. Here are the players that stood out when the dust settled.
Devontae "DB-23" Booker
Let me start by giving you some stats. Against Oregon State, Booker had 32 carries for 229 yards and 3 TD's - enough said. As of right now in the Pac-12, Booker is 2nd in the league in rushing, averaging 123.7 yards per game; he's also tied for 5th in TD's, and 4th in all-purpose yards. DB-23 has carried the ball 120 times for an astounding 742 yards, and his performance in Corvalis was by far his best work. Devontae Booker seemed to get better and stronger as the game wore on, and when it mattered most; particularly on a crucial third down, he did what big time players do and made a big play. DB-23 was not just a work horse against the beavers, he was the best player on the field, and he played that way. Utah has been waiting for a back like Booker for a long time. He's durable, decisive in the backfield, and dangerous in open space. Good work young man, good freaking work.
Currently sitting 4th in the Pac-12 in tackles, Jared Norris seems to be everywhere the ball is. He is seemingly involved with every play. His name was called countless times last night, as it is every time Utah steps out onto the field. Norris is reminiscent of Chaz Walker. Although he's not the prototypical linebacker, he constantly makes plays. Last night, he caused the Oregon State offense headaches, migraines even. Even though he may not garner the attention of a Gionni Paul, he absolutely has to be accounted for.
The Defense... The Whole Dang Defense
This year's defense is quite possibly the best it has ever been. They currently have 7 interceptions through six games. They are flying to the ball on every play, and making it extremely hard for offenses to get any kind of rhythm. Currently they are 2nd in rush defense, 3rd in scoring defense and 3rd in total defense in the league. They are fast, physical and worthy of the national attention they are now getting. Outside of two long pass plays, they held a top ten QB in Sean Mannion to a rather pedestrian night. Kalani Sitake has returned this defensive unit to form and it's very fun to watch.
Andy Phillips currently leads the league in scoring at 10.8 points per game. In recent weeks, we have seen how important it is to have a good kicker, and not only does Utah have one, they have quite possibly the best in the nation. Captain Phillips went 3-for-3 last night, with a long of 46 and was responsible for 11 of Utah's 29 points. By the way he and the rest of the special teams unit play, Utah may just be the most complete team in the league.