Offense - Jaylen Dixon*
*In the first half
Giving out a game ball for the offense was a STRUGGLE. I went back and forth for a while trying to decide if I should give the ball to either Jason Shelley or Jaylen Dixon despite their turnovers. Or should I give it to Jake Jackson who finished with only three catches for 30 yards but did have a TD reception? Or do I just give it to nobody? Ultimately, I decided that since the offense only showed up for one half then I should give them a game ball for just that one half of play. Dixon, other than those two fumbles, was great and it’s very apparent that he and Jason Shelley have a very strong connection. Dixon finished with 114 receiving yards on a career-high 9 receptions to go along with a touchdown catch, making it the second time in his career that Dixon had over 100 receiving yards and a score. The impressive day, however, was clouded by two fumbles on the part of Dixon. But with the game officially behind and we are (literally) onto 2019 I’ve decided to look past the mistakes and focus on the fact that a freshman wide receiver was the leading performer in a big game against a tough Big 10 team. Dixon is going to very good for the next few seasons.
Defense - Francis Bernard
There was no Chase Hansen for the Utes as they took on Northwestern and despite missing the heart and soul of the defense, Utah played great on the defensive side of the ball. A big part in the impressive performance by the Utah defense was the play of Francis Bernard. The Utes finished with two pass deflections all game, both were by Bernard. In addition to his two pass breakups, Bernard finished with six total tackles, four of which were solo tackles. Bernard filled in nicely for Hansen for the second time this season after taking his place after Hansen left the Colorado game early thanks to a targeting penalty. In both games, Bernard played extremely well which is a great sign for things to come. The strength of this Utah defense was their front seven, and the linebacker crew was one of the best in the nation. Unfortunately, the Utes are going to lose two of their star linebackers in Cody Barton and Chase Hansen. But it’s good to know that the Utes have players like Francis Bernard waiting in the wings, ready to take over.
Special Teams - Mitch Wishnowski
In his final game in a Utah uniform, Mitch Wishnowski reminded us all why he is considered one of the best punters in the nation. The punter on the field is not what any fan wants to see because it usually means the offense is struggling. But whenever the punter does need to come out, it doesn’t hurt to have someone who is capable of kicking a 63-yard bomb and pinning the opposing offense inside the 20-yard line. Wishnowski has been great for his entire career at Utah and Monday was no exception, punting the ball five times for a grand total of 231 yards. No one would be surprised to see Wishnowski kicking on Sundays and he will certainly be missed in Salt Lake but if there is one thing that Utah has proven to always have the past several seasons, it’s a dominant punter.