It was a complete game by the entire Utah roster. So as I sat down to write this I struggled with deciding who had earned the prestigious game balls. It seemed as if there were at least five players in every category that had done something to earn a game ball. Solomon Enis caught his first career TD, Zack Moss ran for over 100 yards for the fourth time this season, Chase Hansen had a spectacular interception and Javelin Guirdy was playing excellent coverage all night with two pass deflections. But only one player can win the game ball each week, so without further adieu, here are this week’s game ball winners.
Offense - Tyler Huntley
It’s safe to say that the Tyler Huntley we saw the first month of the season is firmly behind us. Huntley in a word has been fantastic the last three weeks of the season and Saturday night was Huntley’s best performance of his career. With 341 passing yards, Huntley tied his career high in passing yards in a game and his four touchdown passes also ties a career high, something he has done four times. The decision making by Huntley was better Saturday night than I have ever seen it. There will multiple plays in which I was in awe of how Huntley was able to escape the pressure and yet kept his eyes downfield, finding an open receiver for a big game. Huntley accounted for five total touchdowns, four through the air and one rushing, but just as impressive was his distribution of the ball. Nine receivers all caught balls from the junior quarterback which just goes to show how far Huntley has come as a quarterback. The ability to distribute the ball evenly to your playmakers on offense is key to the success of any quarterback and if Huntley can keep up this level of play, the Utes will find themselves in Santa Clara.
Defense - Leki Fotu
I went back and forth multiple times with who I thought deserved the game ball on the defensive side of the ball. When the defense has an outing like they did Saturday night, it just makes my job harder. Everyone from Chase Hansen and Cody Barton to Javelin Guirdy and Mika Tafua were fantastic against the Trojans. But I kept going back to what I saw from Leki Fotu all night long. While the stats don’t show exactly how disruptive the defensive tackle was, Fotu was making plays throughout the entire game. It seemed as if every time a tackle was made within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, Fotu was there. It didn’t matter if it was a running back dive, a jet sweep or a wide receiver screen, Fotu was there to contain the runner and was in position to make a play. So while you could make the case for any player of the defense to get the game ball, I have to go with my gut and award the ball to Fotu.
Special Teams - Chase Hansen
“What can’t this guy do.” Those were my exact words after Hansen recovered USC’s onside kick, sealing the victory for the Utes. But seriously, what can’t this guy do. After his phenomenal interception, it should have come as no surprise that Hansen trotted onto the field with the Utes hands team as USC was about to attempt an onside kick. And it was Hansen that was able to recover the kick, giving the ball to the Utes offense, effectively winning the game for Utah. It was an uncharacteristic night for the Utes special teams as USC recovered a muffed punt by Britain Covey and even blocked a Mitch Wishnowski punt. But with the potential for a USC comeback still intact (albeit not great potential) the play of the game for the special teams came when Hansen was able to secure the onside kick, earning him the game ball.