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Utah Football: Grading the Fresno State Win

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The no.21 Utah Utes went in to Fresno on Saturday night and ruined the Bulldogs blackout with a 45-24 win. The Utes played very well for the most part, but still have a lot to work on before next week's matchup with Oregon. Utah finishes the non-conference portion of the schedule 3-0, and runs their non-conference record since joining the Pac-12 to 16-1. Here are the game grades for last night's game.

Offense

The Good: It was a good night for Devontae Booker, who finished with 156 yards on 31 carries and 2 touchdowns to go with 5 receptions for 56 yards. Booker returned to the style of play we often saw from him a year ago, running people over, breaking tackles, mixed in with an occasional pass out of the backfield. He was a workhorse for the Utes who were playing without injured starting quarterback Travis Wilson. Kendal Thompson, starting in Wilson's place finished 19-25, completing 76% of his passes for 159 yards. Thompson recorded Utah's first passing touchdown of the season to tight end Harrison Handley in the closing seconds of the game. The offense also played well on third down, converting 13 of 19 third down opportunities.

The Bad: The passing game was lackluster without Wilson to sling it down field. Thompson took a couple deep shots which was nice to see, however neither were completed as the intended receiver, Kenneth Scott, drew pass interference from the Fresno State defender on both attempts. Chase Hansen got a pass off, though it was over thrown to a wide open receiver. Without Wilson, there wasn't much of a downfield passing threat all game. This worked out okay against Fresno State, however the offense will need to do more than just ride Booker when it travels to Oregon next week.

Grade: B+

Defense

The Good: The Utah defense played very well for three quarters against Fresno State. They were given a short field to defend, after the opening kickoff fumble, and were able to hold the Bulldogs to just a field goal. Fresno State's best player, running back Marteze Waller was a non-factor in the run game for the most part, gaining  62 yards on the night. Fresno starting quarterback Chason Virgil was held to just 97 yards passing on 11 of 25 throwing the ball. The defense forced a fumble which defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu scooped up and returned 37 yards for a touchdown, and defensive end Kylie Fitts had another strong game in Hunter Dimick's absence, providing a pass rush and tipping a pass at the line of scrimmage.

The Bad: The defense got sloppy late in the game, allowing Fresno State's backup quarterback Zack Greenlee to rally the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter. The Utah defense gave up 144 yards passing and three touchdowns in the final quarter to Greenlee, giving the Bulldogs some life in a game that would have otherwise been over. The team has struggled to put away games so far this year, letting Michigan creep back into the game with a couple late touchdown passes in week one, and again with last night's three touchdowns allowed in the fourth quarter. The defense has allowed more points in the fourth quarter this season (28), than in all other quarters combined (27). The defense will need to increase their intensity in the later stages of games beginning next week against Oregon, who is traditionally a strong fourth quarter team.

Grade: B+

Special Teams

The Good: Utah special teams as we know them are back! Andy Phillips connected on a 33 yard field goal and was 6 for 6 on extra points. Tom Hackett got back to his old ways, pinning Fresno State inside the ten yard line on both of his punts, averaging 44 yards a punt. The kick off team forced and recovered a fumble to begin the second half, but the real magic was in the return game. Cory Butler-Byrd took a fourth quarter kickoff 98 yards to the house immediately following Fresno State's first touchdown of the game. Butler-Byrd didn't have an easy route either, breaking at least three tackles before accelerating into the end zone. Less than two minutes later, Britain Covey continued his breakout freshman season with a 77 yard punt return for a touchdown, to seemingly put the game out of reach.

The Bad: Utah got off to a rough start when kick returner, Boobie Hobbs, fumbled the opening kickoff, giving Fresno State great field position. The only other negative was the return team failing to recover a Fresno State onside kick in the fourth quarter, but neither incident ended up affecting the outcome of the game. Overall, it was a very good night for Utah special teams.

Grade: A

Coaching

The Good: There were no major miscues throughout the course of the game, and the game plan set up for Kendal Thompson and the offense was enough to push the team past Fresno State. The defense, as mentioned earlier, played very well until the end of the game, stopping the Bulldogs best offensive weapon in Waller. Considering the starting quarterback for Fresno State was a question mark leading up to the game, the defense appeared well prepared to handle Chason Virgil. There was nothing too fancy called, just a solid game plan to survive until next week.

The Bad: The fourth quarter collapse by the defense is a concern. Even with the game being mostly out of hand, the coaches need to do a better job making sure the players finish the game with the same intensity they had to begin it. Sometimes Utah teams appear to lack the "killer instinct" and it could come back to haunt them if they suffer similar complacency in a Pac-12 game.

Grade: B+