The Utes are headed to Santa Clara! Utah took care of business early Saturday morning and waited on the edge of their seats as the Ducks defeated Arizona State Saturday night. On a snowy day in Boulder, Colorado, the Utes started slow but eventually took control of the game and rolled to a 30-7 victory. Here are my grades for the Utes’ performance.
Offense - A
Snowy conditions led to sloppy play to start the game on the part of both teams. The difference was that the Utes were able to adapt and make winning plays on the offensive side of the ball. It took a team effort on the offensive end to come away with the win. Jason Shelley played another great game as the redshirt freshman threw for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns. Utah also got big contributions from a pair of freshman in TJ Green and Jaylen Dixon. Green ran for 43 yards on nine attempts while Dixon caught three balls for 125 yards and a touchdown. The Utes will face a tough challenge next week against a very good BYU defense, but if they can continue an ‘all hands on deck’ approach then there should be no issues.
Defense - A
The Utah defense did what Utah defenses do. They were dominant in stopping the run and despite allowing some big plays through the air, they were able to hold Colorado to just seven points. The Utes played most of the game without team captain Chase Hansen who was ejected in the first quarter because of a targeting call that was in, in a word, terrible. But the Utes defense didn’t miss a beat and dominated the Colorado front. The Utes gave up only 196 total yards, 162 through the air and only 34 yards on the ground and had 4 takeaways, including a turnover on downs. The Ute defense has been the heart of this Utah team all season long and my question to you: is this the best Utah defense we’ve seen in Kyle Whittingham’s tenure as head coach?
Special Teams - A
The name of the game for the Ute special teams was ‘do your job.’ And they did just that. The Utes were mistake-free for the game which is all you can ask of a special teams unit playing in snowy conditions. Mitch Wishnowski was able to avoid giving the Buffs good field position throughout the game. Matt Gay did Matt Gay things, going 3/4 on field goals including a 51-yard boot off of a snowy field and narrowly missed what would have been a career-long 58-yard kick. The kickoff and punt teams did a great job of containing Colorado. And Britain Covey avoided any muffed punts. All in all, the Utes had a very solid showing by the special teams.
Coaching - A
An A grade completes a perfect 4.0 GPA for the Utes against Colorado. The theme for all my grades has been one thing, ‘do your job’ which tells me one thing, the coaches had this team ready to go. This was a must win for the Utes if they wanted to have any chance at going to the Pac-12 championship game. The conditions weren’t great and at times the pay wasn’t pretty, but the Utes did exactly what they needed to do to get out of Boulder with a win. Coach Whittingham, Coach Taylor and Coach Scalley deserve a lot of credit for not folding following the loss at Arizona State. The November curse lasted only a week as the coaches kept the team focused and determined. And now we’re on to the team down south.