While the result was certainly not what Utah fans were hoping for, we must acknowledge the players who, when given the chance, executed and performed well. So here are my game balls for Utah vs Washington State.
Offense - Tyler Huntley
Now before everyone gets up in arms because I’m giving the game ball to Huntley, yes I understand that Huntley is not a perfect quarterback. Huntley struggles with inaccuracy and lacks poise in the pocket. But he also looked leaps and bounds better than he did against NIU or Washington. His QBR was nearly twice as high as it was on either of the past two games, and he averaged almost twice as many yards per completion than he did against Washington. More importantly, we finally saw glimpses of last year’s Huntley as the QB was a major factor in the run game. Huntley ran for a season-high 88 yards on 17 carries (good for a 5.2 average). It was also his first game with multiple rushing touchdowns since the Heart of Dallas Bowl last season. Huntley’s strength has never been, and will never be throwing the ball. But as long as he can be a factor in the run game, he will remain the starter for the Utes.
Defense - Bradlee Anae
13 rushing attempts by the Cougars led to 0 rushing yards. Yes, you read that right, ZERO rushing yards. While the secondary got picked apart for most of the game, the defensive front was very good for yet another week. And the leader of that defensive line, Bradlee Anae, was right at the forefront. The star defensive end helped to force the only two sacks of the game for the Ute defense, tallying 1.5 sacks on the game. Coming into the season, Anae was hailed as the next star defensive player for the Utes, although the defensive end has gotten off to a slow start this season. Hopefully tallying his first sack will help to jumpstart the Junior and he can begin wrecking havoc in opponent’s backfields starting Saturday against the Cardinal.
Special Teams - Maxs Tupai
Special Teams for the Utes has always been a strength of the team and this season is no exception. Mitch Wishnowski has been one of the Nation’s best punters yet again, while Matt Gay has been continued to be an extremely reliable kicker. Even Britain Covey has looked just like he did before leaving on an LDS mission as he (kind of) returned a punt for a touchdown. But while those players are always candidates for a special teams game ball, it’s always fun to see other players step up in big ways for the Utes. Such was the case for Maxs Tupai. Tupai had what ended up being the play of the game for the special teams unit when he blocked a field goal attempt by the Cougars.
So those are the players that I believe earned a game ball. If you disagree or think someone else deserved a game ball, let me know in the comments.