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What did we learn about Utah in week 2?

The Utah Utes (2-0) got the win over the Northern Illinois Huskies (0-2) last night. The game was not pretty. The Utes were shutout in the first half and needed a pick six from Chase Hansen to secure the win. Britain Covey looked dynamic at the wide receiver position, but he was the lone bright spot offensively.

The offense has a long way to go

All the news out of fall camp was how good the offense looked. Coaches and media were praising the improved decision making from quarterback Tyler Huntley. The wide receivers were making circus catches (with one wide receiver saying he is the best in the country). The offensive line brought back four starters and was poised to have a better year. Through two weeks, none of that seems true. It is not fair to throw a lot of blame on Huntley for two reasons. The wide receivers have dropped way too many passes and are not getting enough separation against Group of Five or FCS defensive backs. And the offensive line has not given Huntley enough time to throw; he has been under far too much pressure. Despite all the struggles around him, Huntley’s stat line so far this year is 45/71 (63%) for 565 yards with four touchdowns and one interception, which is good. He is ranked sixth in the Pac-12 in quarterback rating (at 146). If the Utah offense is going to improve, Huntley’s decision making does need to get better (he held the ball too long against NIU, but part of that was on the receivers for not getting open). But those around Huntley not named Zack Moss and Britain Covey need to step up. The offensive line returned four starters, which usually means an improvement. The receivers need to make the easy catches, they have probably dropped over 100 yards of easy catches in only two games. I do think that the Utah offense has held a lot back schematically these first two weeks with the Washington Huskies game looming.

The special teams has some serious issues to fix

I could overlook one blocked field goal and one fumble on a punt return as week one jitters that need to be fixed, but when both happen two weeks in a row? Now we are seeing a trend. The Utah kick and punt return game has not gotten anything going through two games. Utah’s recipe for winning football games often relies heavily on playing great special teams, and they have not done that this year. They have a lot to fix, and it needs to happen fast.

The defense still looks dominant

There are a few issues that concerned me against Northern Illinois (edge control especially on the left side was suspect), but the defense performed well yet again. Hansen sealed the win with the pick six, one of two turnovers Utah forced in the game. The defense only gave up 3.0 yards per play (the Iowa Hawkeyes gave up 3.4 yards per play to NIU at home in week one). They were out on the field too much due to the offense failing to move the ball consistently and score points. This was the type of offense that can give Utah problems, but they controlled the game for the most part. Utah ranked first nationally in total defense, passing defense, and yards per play through two games.