Ugh, the Utes have now started conference play 0-2 and are squarely behind the 8-ball. They say, in the game of football, a game can come down to just a few plays each game that determines a win or a loss, well, I’d say that’s the case tonight as Utah was on the wrong end of a couple of plays that ultimately did them in.
The biggest, in my opinion, the punt return for a touchdown that was called back for a block in the back. That would have given Utah a two score lead and really put the pressure on Washington State. Instead, Utah was called for a block in the back, which was a good call, but the thing that hurts is that I don’t think it was a block that had any consequence on the play, I mean Covey was gone at that point. Not only that, even if you would take that penalty/return out of the equation, Utah could have had the ball no worse than around midfield. On Wazzu’s next possession, they hit a 90 yard touchdown pass, when the Utes locked down the Cougars all second half. Also, we can’t forget the trick play from Simpkins to Green that would have been a TD, but ended up only being a FG, that hurt.
The game wasn’t over at that point, because Utah got the ball at around the 30 yard line with a chance to drive to win. Utah was moving the ball well, picked up a couple of 4th down, but a couple of penalties did them in. One was on 4th and 5, where Huntley hit Moss for about a 10 yard gain, but that play was negated because of a false start. And I’m not going to lie, that seemed boarder line to me at best. Then on 4th and 10, Huntley hits Covey for a huge play that went down inside the 10 yard line, but it was called back because of a pretty weak holding call. At 4th and 20, there’s not much else you can do at that point.
With all that said, the Utes actually played well for most of this game, and had a good game plan. Utah went in there with the idea of run, run and run, and it was successful as they rushed for 204 yards, with Moss having 100 and Huntley 88. They just continued to run at Wazzu all game and produced some great drives. What they need to do now is build off that run game and get the pass game going. Huntley was 12 of 20 for 118 yards, but some of those penalties at the end really negated some yardage. They need to build on the passing game going forward, but keep that run first mentality.
On defense, yeah they gave up 445 yards through the air, but they really was living in the backfield much of the game, and did a nice job overall. You need to score 30 points to win a Pac-12 game, and the defense gave the offense that opportunity. Wazzu completed 55% of their passes, which is a percentage I’d take. It was just those two big ones that did the Utes in, at the end of the day. Morgan Scalley made some nice adjustments in the second half to really shut down Wazzu, as they only scored the one time in that second half.
For the Utes, it doesn’t get any easier as they need to go to Stanford next week, but that is a better matchup for them, overall. They need to continue to develop the offense, and if they do, they’ll get some wins and make things interesting. At this point, it’s not about winning the Pac-12 South (which they still have a shot at), it’s about getting to next week and winning that game. They just need to keep working.