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What We Learned About Utah Against Arizona

NCAA Football: Arizona at Utah Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

After a cry worthy, almost comedic, first half full of false start penalties the Utes ran away in the second half to ensure a victory versus Arizona. This win marked Utah’s first over the Wildcats and gave Utah head coach, Kyle Whittingham his one-hundredth win. Here are a few takeaways from week six.

1. Defense is figuring it out

After several weeks in a row of the Utah defense looking flat across the board they finally looked like themselves again against Arizona. Defensive tackle, Pasoni Tasini, had a huge tackle for loss on the Wildcat’s quarterback, Khalil Tate in the end zone, which resulted in a safety. The Utes also intercepted the ball three times, one of which was one of the most athletic plays of the game and a winner of several plays of the week. Sophomore strong safety, Chase Hansen and junior free safety, Marcus Williams combined for an explosive hit and herculean interception. It will take another performance to see if the Utah defense is back to normal but after this week they are trending upward.

2. Outstanding special teams

Every piece seemed to click on special teams for the Utes this week in the victory over the Arizona Wildcats. Mitch Wishnowsky won the Ray Guy award this week for the second time this season and averaged 50 yards. Wishnowsky accounted for six punts and 300 yards with a long 56-yard punt. Andy Phillips was also perfect in two field goals and four extra points. Phillips accounted for 10 points with a long completed attempt of 35 yards. Even with near perfect precision coming from both Wishnowsky and Phillips, one of the greatest contributors on special teams was senior returner, Cory Butler-Byrd. Butler-Byrd had three returns for 86 yards and for the first time this season the Utes special teams were able to get offensive starting positions at the 50-yard line and the Arizona 47-yard line.

3. Fourteen, eleven, and nine

Fourteen total penalties, eleven in the first half, and nine of those penalties were false starts. The Utah football team has caught the injury bug and it reared its ugly head in the form of false starts against the Arizona Wildcats. After yet another season ending injury to sophomore Armand Shyne, Utah’s depth at running back is dwindling away. Following the injury, junior running back, Jordan Howard, who started the season at fifth string on the depth chart came in with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter for five carries and 32 yards. After taking a huge helmet hit to the leg, Howard will also be unable this week. As if being six down on the chart for running back is not bad enough, the Utes are now down to fourth string center and have had to move around the offensive line to find players for the position. Utah has got to find their way around these injuries if they want to keep the number one spot in the south and contend for the PAC12.

Though it started ugly the second half of the victory versus Arizona looked promising. How big of an impact will losing running back Armand Shyne have on the Utes? This could be a big factor when the Utes take on former Utah guy, Gary Andersen’s Oregon State Beavers.