Saturday's game was disappointing to say the least, as the Utes stumbled and bumbled their way to a 42-10 defeat at the hands of the Arizona Wildcats. As you can guess the grades were pretty ugly for this one.
The fact that Arizona's defense outscored the Utes offense 14-10 is all you need to know. The only reason I don't give the offense a big fat F is the play of Devontae Booker. Every week Booker comes up big for the Utes, which is saying something as he is the only weapon opposing defenses have to prepare for. Booker ran for 142 yards on 23 carries for an average of 6.2 yards per carry. That's pretty impressive when your quarterback has -4 yards passing and -1 yards rushing through the first quarter.
Travis Wilson was able to come back and find Westlee Tonga for a couple good passes, and his stat line didn't end up too horrendous (16-29 143 yards 1 TD 2 INT). Still, anyone who watched the game knows the offensive performance was worse than the stats might indicate. Too many three and outs, too many balls batted at the line of scrimmage, too many questionable play calls. The Utes turned the ball over four times, two of those resulting in immediate touchdowns for the Wildcats. One on a Bubba Poole fumble that turned into an Arizona scoop-and-score and a pick six from Conner Manning on only the fifth pass of his career. It was by far the worst showing for a Utes' offense that has been downright awful this year.
The Utah defense was facing a freshman quarterback and a freshman running back from warm, dry, Arizona in the wet and windy confines of Rice-Eccles on senior day. A recipe for the Utah defense to dominate right? Wrong.
Instead the Utes made Arizona freshman runningback Nick Wilson look like a Heisman candidate as Wilson gashed though the defensive line all game long, racking up 218 yards and 3 touchdowns on 20 carries. Quarterback Anu Soloman made the Utes look silly at times evading the pass rush to deliver strikes to his receivers and ran for a touchdown of his own before he left the game due to injury. The vaunted Utah defense still wasn't able to get stops once Wildcats' backup Jesse Scroggins came in at quarterback. They were able to muster 2 sacks to keep the SackLakeCity moniker alive, however they gave up over 500 yards of offense and allowed Arizona to run for over 200 yards against them for the third consecutive year. Like the offense, it was by far the worst showing of the year for the Utah defense.
Special Teams: B+
Special teams was the lone bright spot on this dreary Saturday afternoon. Tom Hackett eclipsed 400 yards punting the football yet again and provided the Utes with great field position to work with. It seems hard to believe this game could have gotten any worse, but without Hackett, it very well could have been.
Andy Phillips only got one shot at a field goal and did his duty, sending it through the uprights in less than optimal conditions.
Kaelin Clay almost got his fifth touchdown return of the year, tip toeing up the sideline on an electric punt return that would have gotten the Utes right back into the game with momentum. It was not to be however, as true freshman Boobie Hobbs was called for holding before the return.
Overall it was another good showing for Utah special teams, but because of the hold wiping out Clay's return and changing the whole momentum of the game, I drop special teams to a B+.
Next weekend against Colorado, the defense will need to regroup, and special teams will need to continue doing what they have been doing. As for the offense, I still think Wilson gives the Utes the best chance to win at Colorado, but I expect to see a heavy dose of Booker next weekend against a Colorado team that ranks dead last in the Pac-12 in run defense.