Utah left San Jose with a 34-17 win on Saturday night with a performance that wasn't always pretty, but got the job done. There were some good things to take away from the game and some things to improve upon before next week's matchup with USC. Let's take a look at the game grades.
The offense was inconsistent and appears yet again to be the teams achilles heel. After no turnovers in the first half, ball security issues reared their ugly head in the second half. Troy Williams made some poor throwing decisions and had another red zone interception throwing into double coverage in the endzone. Troy McCormick also had a fumble after a long run. The team also struggled to finish off drives in the redzone converting only 50%, settling for field goals instead of touchdowns.
There were lots of positives however, as the offense showed an explosiveness not seen by Utah offenses in recent years. Williams hooked up with Tim Patrick six times for 121 yards and a touchdown. It is obvious Williams and Patrick have good chemistry and Patrick has emerged as a legitimate no.1 receiver and deep threat. Corey Butler-Byrd made his return after suspension and provided a huge spark on offense, mainly using his speed and quickness to rack up yards after catch on shorts passes.
In the running game, true freshman Zack Moss followed up last week's promising performance with a great night running the ball, finishing with 95 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown, including a big 52 yard run. Troy McCormick also was electric, with 61 yards on 7 carries and a touchdown. The big surprise of the game was Armand Shyne who made the most of his 12 carries, punishing Spartan defenders in a manner reminiscent of Devontae Booker, en route to 92 yards and a touchdown. With Joe Williams' retirement, Shyne likely played himself into a bigger role with the offense moving forward. Overall the offense showed some very promising things and scored 34 points, but shot themselves in the foot too many times. They'll need to find a way to be more consistent to have success in conference play.
After a slow start, in which the Spartans moved the ball well and scored 10 early points, the Utah defense awoke from their slumber. The last three quarters were an absolute nightmare for San Jose State's offense and quarterback Kenny Potter. The defensive line wreaked havoc all night in San Jose State's backfield racking up 10 sacks, and constantly pressuring the quarterback. Eight different Utes got in on the sack party, with Hunter Dimick and Filipo Mokofisi leading the way with 2 each.In the third quarter, Potter was knocked out of the game on a vicious hit by Pita Taumoepenu and Chase Hansen. The defense also forced three turnovers, recovering a fumble and picking off two passes, one by Reggie Porter and another by Marcus Williams.
The defense held the quarterbacking combo of Kenny Potter and Josh Love under 300 yards passing with 249 yards combined and also limited the running game for the Spartans. A week after having two backs eclipse 100 yards against FCS team Portland State, the Spartans were held to just 56 yards total rushing by the stout Utah defensive front. The Spartans were able to add a late touchdown in garbage time, but overall it was a mostly dominant showing by the defense against an inferior opponent.
Nothing out of the ordinary here. Special teams was once again excellent. Andy Phillips converted both of his field goal tries to give Utah an early lead and was 4/4 on his extra points. Mitch Wishnowsky continued his strong start to the season punting five times for 246 yards, averaging 49.2 yards per punt with a long of 59 yards. Boobie Hobbs returned 5 punts, averaging 8.4 yards per return with a long of 18 yards and didn't muff any returns, unlike San Jose State. Another great performance for the special teams group.
It hasn't always been pretty these first three weeks, but the Utes enter conference play 3-0, which is all you can ask for to begin the season. Since joining the Pac-12 Utah is 20-1 in non conference play, a remarkable stat. The Utes will welcome USC to Rice-Eccles on Friday night, where one figures they will need to play a decidedly cleaner game to get the win.