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Grading Utah’s Win Over UCLA

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NCAA Football: Utah at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

So much for a defensive battle. In what was expected by many to be a low scoring affair, Utah and UCLA lit up the scoreboard, moving up and down the field to combine for over 1,000 yards of offense. Fortunately for Utah, the Utes came out on top, 52-45, and move on to next week with a 7-1 record, when they will host undefeated Washington and ESPN’s Gameday.

Offense

Utah’s offense was the strength of the team this week, more specifically, Joe Williams. In just his second game since returning to the team, Williams exploded for 332 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns, setting the school’s single game rushing record and setting the high yardage mark for all running backs in college football this season. Williams didn’t just grind yards out either, he gobbled them up, cutting through UCLA’s defense like a hot knife through butter. Williams had touchdown runs of 43, 55 and 64 yards, showing off his speed against an athletic UCLA defense.

Overall the offense accounted for 539 total yards. The offensive line was dominant at times in the run game, opening giant holes for Williams to run through untouched. The other Williams, Troy Williams, threw for just 179 yards, but did enough to move the ball through the air and keep the Bruin’s defense honest. Troy also scored a touchdown for himself on the ground.

Joe Williams gets most of the credit for this grade, but a win in the Rose Bowl is tough to come by, and Utah’s offense was the reason Utah came out on top.

Grade: A

Defense

Utah’s normally stout defense looked a little shaky today. The Utes gave up 510 yards of offense, 464 of those through the air. UCLA basically abandoned their rushing attack, running only 16 times compared to an astonishing 71 pass plays. Despite UCLA being one dimensional with a backup quarterback, the secondary was again torched for big plays, in what has become a common occurrence this season. The defense also struggled to tackle Bruins in the open field, letting receivers slip through their grasp and scamper for big yardage.

There were some positives. The defense was tough up front, keeping UCLA from establishing anything on the ground early, and picking up a couple sacks. The secondary was also able to reel in four interceptions, including two from Jordan Fogal who was starting at safety in place of the injured Marcus Williams. The Utah defense did what needed to be done on the final drive of the game, denying the Bruins and preserving the win.

Grade: C

Special Teams

It was a pretty good day for Utah’s special teams. Cory Butler-Byrd got things started, returning the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to give Utah an early lead.

Andy Phillips missed right on his first field goal attempt from 44 yards, but then hit subsequent field goals from 45, 45, and 46 yards to make up for the miss. Mitch Wishnowsky punted 7 times for 303 yards, landing 5 of of his kicks inside UCLA’s 20, once again proving a good Australian punter can be a powerful weapon.

Utah’s kick coverage was not the best, allowing a 35 yard punt return to Adarius Pickett at a critical juncture late in the game, and also allowing Ishmael Adams to gain 108 yards on 4 kickoff returns.

Grade: A-

Overall, you can’t complain too much about a win in the Rose Bowl and a 7-1 start. Having Joe Williams back has proved to be a huge asset for a team that continues to struggle with injuries. On defense, injuries have definitely taken their toll, but hopefully we will see some familiar faces back out there next weekend. It’s rare Utah wins games by simply outscoring their opponent, but on Saturday, they did just that.