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Thoughts on the Utah-BYU Game: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

NCAA Football: Utah at Brigham Young George Frey-USA TODAY Sports

There was good, bad, and ugly in Utah’s win over BYU to get the Utes to 2-0 for the fifth year in a row. The game was closer than the score seemed, and Utah did some nice things that deserve to be highlighted because they are likely to get overshadowed by the mistakes that were made.

The Good

First, let’s not forget Utah has now won seven straight games over the rival Cougars. They have not done this since the 1950s.

Tyler Huntley showed why he was named the starter. While he did make some mistakes, in general he looked great. He gave Utah only their sixth 300-yard passing game in the Pac-12, and their first since the game against Colorado in 2014. He is also dynamic running the football, gaining 89 yards on 19 carries and scoring Utah’s lone touchdown. Huntley is a true dual-threat quarterback, and he is exciting to watch. He received a shout out on Twitter from former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd.

Darren Carrington II had another big day at wide receiver hauling in seven passes for 129 yards. Siaosi Wilson had five catches for 89 yards, including a 48-yard reception. Samson Nacua had 52 yards on five catches. The receivers did their job and won against the BYU defensive backs. Utah has multiple threats in the passing game for Huntley to throw to, including one of the best in the conference in Carrington, who is sixth in the nation and second in the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game.

The offensive line did not allow any sacks in the game. BYU has some talent up front, especially pass rusher Sione Takitaki, so not allowing any sacks deserves some praise from the young group.

The defense played well, especially the young secondary. Jaylon Johnson had his first career interception as a Ute (one of many I am sure), Boobie Hobbs had an interception as well early in the game, Casey Hughes had a sack, and Julian Blackmon also locked down his receiver. Utah kept those three on islands, and they held up well all game long. The defense recorded three sacks, which is the same number LSU recorded against BYU and forced three turnovers (Filipo Mokofisi had interception as well in addition to Johnson’s and Hobbs’s). The defense held BYU to 233 yards and only 3.7 yards per play.

Matt Gay and Mitch Wishnowsky both performed excellently on special teams. Gay was 4-for-4 on field goals, and Wishnowsky flipped the field consistently and had a great tackle to stop Jonah Trinnaman’s almost certain kickoff return touchdown.

The Bad

Penalties. This being a rivalry game, I could look past the penalties normally, but the problem is the same thing happened in game one, which is why I am concerned about this. Utah had 10 penalties for 97 yards. They took scores off the board and killed drives.

Turnovers. Utah gifted BYU their first touchdown with the bad handoff that resulted in a fumble, and Troy McCormick’s fumble took an almost certain score off the board. Utah needs to be more secure with the football moving forward.

The snapping was poor for much of the game. It made it difficult for Utah to successfully execute their plays.

The running game outside of Huntley was not very successful. Zack Moss averaged under 2.0 yards per carry. It is true that Huntley should have given Moss the ball on some of the option plays, but the running backs needed to be better overall in the conventional run game.

Utah was only 3-of-14 on third down conversions. Penalties played a role here, but the Utes need to be more efficient on third downs to extend drives.

Jumping off that point, red zone issues reared their ugly head again. Utah was only 5-of-7 in the red zone against BYU (though it was really 5-of-6 because one was Utah taking knees to end the game at the BYU 15 yard line), and only scored a touchdown once.

The Ugly

Utah deserves some blame for their mistakes in this one, but the referees in this game were awful. I generally do not like to complain about the refs, but the volume of missed/bad calls was abhorrent in this one. Wilson’s offensive pass interference penalty was an awful call that erased a touchdown. It was a busted coverage, and he was just running his route. Tanner Mangum’s fumble that was overturned I felt should have stood. There was no evidence I saw that indicated his arm was moving forward before Chase Hansen hit him and knocked the ball loose. While Sunia Tauteoli was guilty of a stupid late hit, it was not targeting in my opinion. The referees also missed a horse collar tackle by BYU on McCormick’s fumble. It would have been first and 10 at the BYU 16 if they called that penalty instead of BYU football. There was also a blatant late hit on Carrington that the referees missed. I was surprised by the lack of a review on Wilson’s almost touchdown catch. The holding call on Huntley was baffling. The referee likely said the wrong number, but I will have to review that play further to see if there was a hold. It should have resulted in a Carrington touchdown catch. I have tremendous respective for the restraint Kyle Whittingham showed in his post-game press conference about the bad calls. Again, Utah deserves blame for making mistakes, many of the penalties called on them were correct, and good teams need to overcome bad calls (which thankfully Utah did enough to still win), but the referees were far too involved in this game and had a large influence in the outcome being closer than it should have been.

In general, I think the number of good things outnumbered the bad. It was just a matter of the bad things being very bad and at very inopportune times. The mistakes are all fixable, and if Utah gets them fixed, this team has a lot of talent. They just need to get out of their own way at times. Huntley is a budding star at the quarterback position, and Carrington is one of the best receivers in the Pac-12. The Utah defense has been stout against the run two weeks in a row, and the young secondary is performing well. Utah has the potential to be quite good this year if they can clean up the unforced errors. They have one more non conference game to go before they enter Pac-12 play.