After a disappointing loss to the tenth-ranked Washington Huskies, here is my report card for the Utes.
Offense - F
I had hoped that the offensive struggles were limited to just one bad game against NIU, but as it turns out I was dead wrong. For the second week in a row, the Utah offense struggled to move the ball and to score points. Many of the issues that plagued the Utes a week ago made an appearance again this week as Utah managed just 7 points against the Huskies. Dropped passes are starting to become a common theme for these receivers as the Utes dropped several passes, some of which could have gone for touchdowns. But dropped passes isn’t the only weakness of this Utah offense. Poor blocking up front has limited the run game that Utah relies on so heavily. On top of that, Utah had some costly turnovers that included two fumbles as Utah neared Washington territory and an interception at the end of the first half. The Utes have a bye week this Saturday, meaning Kyle Whittingham and OC Troy Taylor have two weeks to fix some of these issues before having to travel to Pullman, Washington to take on Washington State.
Defense - B+
The Ute defense did all they could to limit the Huskies’ offense all game long, and for the majority of the game, they did a pretty good job of doing so. Utah’s defense has been very impressive all season long and is obviously the strongest unit on this Utah team. The defense for the Utes has been great all season long and continued to be Saturday night, as the Utes held the tenth ranked team to just 21 points on 327 yards of total offense. The Utah defense was in the face of Huskies’ QB Jake Browning all game long, forcing the Washington QB into some difficult throws and even an interception by defensive tackle Pita Tonga that was nearly returned for a touchdown. The Utah defense was dominant in the second half despite losing two key players to “targeting” penalties. The only reason the defense comes in at a B+ is because of penalties that included a roughing the passer penalty that took away a Utah interception and two targeting call that led to the loss of Marquise Blair and Leki Fotu.
Special Teams - A
It seems like it’s been a long time since we watched a Utah game where Matt Gay did not attempt a field goal, but such was the case Saturday night. Despite not having an attempted field goal, the Ute special teams played very well all game long against Washington. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky was phenomenal once again, attempting 5 punts for 228 yards, good for 45.6 yards per punt and a long of 56 yards. Britain Covey was also great in the punt return game, returning 5 punts for 77 yards and helped to keep the Ute offense out of poor field position multiple times.
Coaching - D
Following a poor offensive performance last week against NIU, Kyle Whittingham made it clear that Zack Moss needed more than the 16 carries that he got against Northern Illinois. This week against Washington however, the star running back actually received less carries, handling the ball only 13 times to the chagrin of Utah fans and local media. It is my firm belief that in order to be successful you need to give the ball to your best player, which in the case of the Utes is Zack Moss. Following the game, Whittingham attributed the lack of carries for Moss to an ankle injury that has been keeping the running back limited. If Moss is truly suffering from an ankle injury then yes, he shouldn’t be put in harm’s way. However the Utes have other talented running backs on the roster and I also believe that in order to be successful, you need to play to your strengths. And the strength of the Utah offense is running the ball. Fortunately for the Utah offensive coaches, they have an additional week before they play again to help fix some of the issues, and Moss has an extra week to get healthy.