Utah suffered their first loss of the season, a 28-23 heartbreaker, at Cal on Saturday. The game came down to a final series which saw Utah have three chances to punch the ball in against the Cal defense from one yard out. Utah was unable to get it done, as Cal stuffed freshman running back Zack Moss on the final play of the game. Here is a look at how the team graded out in last night’s loss.
It wasn’t the offense’s best performance, but it wasn’t their worst either. After losing J.J. Dielman and Tim Patrick to injuries early in the game, Utah struggled before settling down, and started grinding with the running game. The offense actually did very well at maintaining possession throughout the game, thus limiting Cal’s offensive possessions. Utah dominated time of posession 42:01 to 17:59 and ran an incredible 97 plays to Cal’s 49.
Armand Shyne had another good game running the ball with 99 yards on 25 carries. Troy Williams threw the ball pretty well, throwing a beauty to Tyrone Smith near the goaline to set up Utah’s final touchdown. It was another game without a turnover from Williams which is a good sign, but he failed to throw a touchdown.
Overall I thought it was a solid performance by the offense considering the missing key players. They took care of the ball, ate up clock, and were in a position to win the game on the final possession, they just didn’t finish.
The defense had a rough start giving up two touchdowns on long pass plays to start the 1st quarter. Missing Reggie Porter and Lowell Lotulelei didn’t help matters. The defense settled down in the second quarter and Brian Allen grabbed himself the game’s only interception.
The Bear’s offense came back in the third quarter however, with Davis Webb finding Chase Hansen in the end zone for the second time. In the fourth quarter, the Utah secondary gave up another big passing play, when Webb hit Demitris Robertson for a 56 yard touchdown.
Despite the big plays, Utah’s defense still managed to hold Cal’s offense well below their season average of 45.5 ppg, holding them to just 28 on their home turf. In the fourth, the defense held on Cal’s last possession, getting a sack and forcing Cal to punt the ball back to Utah for a final drive. Again, considering the missing pieces, I thought the defense played fairly well and put the Utah offense in a position to win.
Utah’s special teams was okay, but not the normal, stellar performance. Andy Phillips missed a 48 yard field goal which in hindsight would have changed the way the final two possessions played out. He was able to hit on a 40 yarder to begin the second quarter which got Utah on the board.
Wishnowsky did well, 42.3 yards a punt and placing 2 of his 3 punts deep in Cal territiory. Boobie Hobbs managed the return game fine, but Utah continues to struggle to find much room on returns, and often find themselves having to drive the length of the field. It was not an especially good performance, but nothing worrisome either.
Overall I liked the game plan of controlling the clock and limiting Cal’s possessions and thought it was executed pretty well. Aside from giving up a few big plays to Cal’s offense, the team had a solid, if unspectacular showing. The final two drives for the offense were undoubtedly frustrating, especially after 4th and short had been working the entire game, and last week against USC. Bottom line, Utah put themselves in a position to beat a very good offensive team on the road, but just couldn’t finish the job.