Last Saturday was bizarre in a lot of ways. From Clay's fumble to the piling up of injuries, everything that could have gone wrong, did. Although the final score looked lopsided, the game proved to be a lot closer than the 51-27 score shows. Utah was within three points of the Mariota led ducks with eight minutes left in the third quarter. Utah was physical, fast and unrelenting for the majority of the night. While I do not believe in "moral victories," there are some good and even great things that took place in the Utes' loss. So after going over the film a couple of times, here are the players and moments that I feel deserve game balls from last weekend.
Hroniss Grasu is 6-3 and 297 pounds. He is also an All-American center for the Ducks. Grasu is projected to play in the NFL and will make a lot of money playing on Sundays, but last weekend it was all he could do to keep freshman nose tackle Lowell Lotulelei off of his Heisman candidate quarterback. Lotulelei recorded two sacks in the opening moments of the game, and from that moment demanded double and at times triple teams to keep him out of the backfield. When he wasn't making Mariota nervous in the pocket, he was wreaking havoc on the interior and stopping the run. The greatest thing about Lowell is that he is just a freshman. This means that Utah will have him for at least another two years. It is whispered that Lowell may turn out to be a more athletic version of his brother. If that holds true, Utah will have struck gold yet again.
DB-23 showed up again against the Ducks. Even though he had a fumble, he proved, yet again, that he is a major piece of the Dave Christensen puzzle. He is the 12th RB in Utah history to go over 1,000 yards, and there are still three games and a bowl to be played. Against Oregon, we saw him used in the passing game a lot more, and it was instrumental in Utah's offensive success. Although his rushing numbers were not typical of what we have come to expect, he did finish with eight catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. Booker has proven to be very, very valuable to this team.
I know, I know... the fumble. But let's look at the rest of the game. Games are not won or lost on one single play, especially when you play a team like Oregon. Clay could have wilted. He could have sat on the bench in misery and hoped that his team find a way to go on without him, but that's not what he did. Clay recorded five catches for 152 yards. He also racked up 174 return yards. He went back on the field and did what he could to help his team win. Crazy things happen in college football, and while I am not excusing his mistake, it was just that.
After coming in to the game when starting quarterback Kendall Thompson went down, Wilson did everything that was asked of him. He stood in the pocket and threw the deep ball. He ran the option well, and he made some very good throws. He wasn't perfect by any means, but he was good enough to lead this football team. Wilson finished 18-of-28 passing for 297 yards. Most of all, he showed signs of his 2013 self. Maybe he wasn't worried about losing his job, or maybe something between him and his OC clicked. Regardless, it seems that Utah may have gained a little momentum in the offense.
Against a very athletic Oregon defensive line, the Utah offensive line played very well. Travis (and Kendall before he was injured) had time to throw and go through progressions. The Utes blocked well in the run game, and they seemed to have a new found confidence in the passing game. There were some changes made to last week, and maybe that is the reason for the success against the Ducks. Whatever the reason, they finally looked like they had put it all together.