What a difference a week makes, Utes fans! Utah pulled a huge upset on upset weekend in college football, finally getting a signature road win in the Pac-12. This is Utah's second win against a Top 10 team since joining the Pac-12, but their first on the road. The Utes were not perfect, but they made enough plays to get the win in the Rose Bowl.
Offense - B
I am going to give the O a B. Yes, they only managed to throw for 100 yards, but they really did not need to throw the ball. The Utes controlled the game on the ground, with Devontae Booker (how amazing is he?!) gaining 156 yards on 33 carries (4.7 yards per carry), and Kendal Thompson adding 83 yards on 19 carries (4.4 yards per carry).
The combination of Booker inside and Thompson outside on the read-option was too much for the Bruins defense, with Utah gaining 242 yards on the ground as a team. Booker runs with so much physicality, and Thompson has great quickness and made good decisions in the option game.
Thompson also had a 42-yard passing touchdown to wide receiver Dres Anderson, who made a fabulous catch in the end zone.
I loved the "pound-the-rock" approach, eating up clock and allowing the defense to rest. The big negatives were with the offensive line in pass protection (but they opened up holes effectively in the running game), and the wide receivers dropping the football. These aspects will need to be fixed moving forward, but ultimately, the offense responded every time they needed to and did enough to get the win.
Defense - A
All you need to know is 10 sacks (yes, 10!). Think about that. There are 43 teams in the NCAA that do not have that many sacks this season. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is very mobile, but he has a poor offensive line. Credit the coaches for preparing the defense to keep him contained, so he could not scramble, and keeping the pressure on him all game (I liked that they rushed four not three during UCLA's last drive). The best defensive series during the game was when in three plays, Hundley was sacked three times.
Safety Tevin Carter added a pick-six for Utah before leaving the game with an injury. (Carter's absence was felt on UCLA's fourth quarter drives.)
The one knock that keeps this game from being an A+ is the two long touchdown passes the defense allowed, but other than that, it was a truly amazing performance from the defense.
Special Teams - A+
I am going with A+ for special teams. Andy Phillips was 3-for-3 on field goals (48, 45 and 29 yards), including the game winner. Phillips also helped Utah steal a possession with a surprise on-side kick.
Punter Tom Hackett continued to do what he does, pin opponents deep in their territory, plus he kept the ball out of the hands of the dangerous Ishmael Adams (one return for one yard). Kaelin Clay returned two punts for 22 yards, the only yards UCLA has given up in punt returns in five games this season. Utah has the best special teams in the country, period.
Coaching - A-
Normally, we do not give out coaching grades, but I thought the coaches deserve a big shout out after last week. A lot of fans were down on them (myself included), but I think they deserve a solid A- for this game. They made the switch to Kendal Thompson, which provided the spark the offense needed, and they did not change what was working. They continued to pound the ball all game, wearing out UCLA's defense, eating up time from the clock, and allowing the defense to stay fresh. They continued to bring pressure all game with the defense. Even on UCLA's long touchdowns, they brought at least four guys. The only knock I will give to the coaches is that they did not go for the first down on 3rd-and-3 at the end of the game. Ultimately, things worked out, but I would like to see the coaching staff be more aggressive in that scenario.
This was a great win for Utah, knocking off a Top 10 team on the road, and finally getting a signature Pac-12 road win. The win has put Utah squarely in the Pac-12 South race, in what has proven to be a wild Pac-12 South. Utah gets a bye this week to enjoy the win and heal up, then they travel to Corvallis, Ore. to take on Oregon State on Thursday, Oct. 16th.