Finally! The Utah team we’ve all been waiting for showed up Saturday night in a big road win over Stanford, 40-21. We would see flashes from time to time this season, but for the first time in 2018, both sides of the ball (for the most part) put together 60 minutes of football. In an interesting stat, Utah is undefeated (5-0) against Stanford in Palo Alto.
Let’s touch on that offense, how about that offense? We saw as potent and productive of an offensive performance as we’ve seen all season long, and it was at every position. It started up front with the offensive line. They were nasty all game long, and even were down a few bodies and played well. They opened up big running lanes for the backs, Zack Moss and Armand Shyne. They also did a very nice job in pass protection, giving Tyler Huntley clean pockets for most of the night and allowed him to make make plays downfield. Major kudos to the line.
Let’s move on to the wide receivers. It felt different tonight the moment that Demari Simpkins caught a tough ball from Huntley, and he snatched it with both hands away from his body. Every dude made plays tonight on the outside, Covey had 6 catches for 70 yards, Samson Nacua also had 70 yards, including the back breaker long ball that put Stanford away.
Huntley was so efficient and played smart all game long. He went 17/21 on the game, with 199 yards and a touchdown. He made the play of the game, arguably, when he avoided a sack and threw a 57 yard touchdown pass to Nacua, with a Stanford defender around his ankles. What a performance for that young man.
The effort was led, on offense, by Zack Moss with his 160 yards on 20 carries. Stanford just could not bring him down all game long. Moss got some backfield help with Shyne picking up some tough yards, 38 yards on 10 carries. Moss went out of the game for a bit in the 1st, and Shyne just kept the chains moving. This was the type of one-two punch I’ve been expecting to see.
What I loved to see was a good 3rd down conversion of 6/13 on the night, and they just kept picking up those 3rd and shorts with either Moss, Shyne or Huntley on the ground. Overall, the Utes picked up 421 yards on the game. Utah only punted twice during the game, which is a number none of us have seen in a long time, and one of those punts ended up leading to a 1st down after Stanford ran into Mitch Wishnowsky on a 4th and short extending the drive. Utah scored on almost every other possession, and they did it while controlling the clock. So impressive tonight.
Let’s go to the other side of the ball. It can’t be overlooked that Bryce Love didn’t play, but Utah held the rest of the Cardinal to 42 yards rushing. They did give up 380 yards through the air, but that’s to be expected when Stanford couldn’t run the ball. They attacked Utah’s secondary all night long, and even though they did make plenty of plays on the backend, Utah did make them pay too. Namely, Jaylon Johnson announced himself in this game, when he was guarding Stanford’s best wide receiver most of the game, with a 99 yard pick six on a terrible throw by Costello. Everyone knew what Stanford wanted to do in that moment, and Jaylon played it perfectly and went back the other way. Not to be outdone, by much, the next possession Pututau picked off Costello himself when the Utes brought the house and was bringing him down for a sack. There were some hard hits tonight by the Utes too, including Bradlee Anae, who was a monster, and Chase Hansen, who is, well, Chase Hansen. Stanford was in max protect a lot of prevent Utah from getting home, but the Utes got home when it counted, especially at the end of the game. The Utes were +4 in the turnover column, and each one was huge. Utah even brought the house near the end of the game, where we’ve seen some prevent in the past. It was nice to Coach Scalley bring some exotic blitzes to really throw off Costello and put the hammer down on him.
What a win. Now the Utes are 1-2 in conference play, and if they can keep this up, they can make a run. That’s a big IF, but they can do it. Troy Taylor called one heck of a game, I can’t go without saying that.
Next up for the Utes is a shorter week, as they take on Arizona Friday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium. And don’t look now, the ‘Cats are 2-1 in conference play, so while Utah should win that game, they have to go in there and take care of business. But let’s worry about that starting Monday.