Utah finally snapped a four game losing streak against Arizona with a 36-23 win over the Wildcats. After an awful first half in which Utah was penalized 11 times, the team settled down in the second half to take control of the game. The win came at a price, as an already beat up Utah team lost running back Armand Shyne late in the game with a serious looking knee injury. It wasn’t pretty, but the Utes got the win. Here are the game grades for each unit.
The first half was a mess for the offense, particularly the offensive line, who was called for 8 false start penalties in the first half. Low snaps were an issue as well in the first half leading to more than a couple broken plays. Utah only had 24 yards rushing in the first half and struggled to find any rhythm before Troy Williams found Tyrone Smith in the corner of the endzone just before half, pulling the Utes within 2 points.
The second half was a completely different story. Utah came out firing, going 68 yards in four plays to take the lead on the first possession of the second half. The offense would continue to build on the lead throughout the remainder of the game as Troy Williams finished with 245 yards passing with 1 touchdown through the air and 2 on the ground. Tight ends Evan Moeai and Harrison Handley both stepped up, grabbing 3 receptions each, and Armand Shyne became the first Utah running back to break 100 yards in a game this season (although it cruelly came on the same play where he injured his knee). It was a Jekyll and Hyde performance from the offense. We’ll split the difference for the overall grade.
It wasn’t the best night for the defense as they allowed a season high 475 yards, including a 75 yard touchdown strike on the first play of the game. There were a few other big plays given up, including a third and long completion out of Arizona’s end zone to Trey Griffey and a 63 yard touchdown bomb to Samajie Grant near the end of the game.
Utah did well against Arizona’s rushing game however, limiting Brandon Dawkins to just 49 yards on 14 carries. No other Wildcat ball carrier gained more than 35 yards in the game. The defense also won the turnover battle, intercepting 3 passes. Brian Allen, Marcus Williams and Dominique Hatfield all pulled in an interception.
After giving up 14 points early, the defense settled in and did a good job keeping Arizona from scoring until the Utah offense had built up a somewhat comfortable lead, before giving up a few scores toward the end. Overall, it was not the defense’s finest performance from a yards allowed standpoint, but they held the Arizona offense to 23 points and gave the offense an opportunity to win the game.
Mitch Wishnowsky was the man, especially in the first half, bailing out the rest of the team by repeatedly pinning Arizona deep in the own territory. Wishnowsky punted six times for 300 yards, averaging 50 yards per punt, and pinning Arizona inside their own 5 yard line three times.
Andy Phillips was 2 for 2 on field goals and 4 for 4 on extra points. Cory Butler-Byrd added some life to Utah’s struggling return game, averaging 28.7 yards on three returns including a 34 yard return. A good showing for the special teams unit.