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Grading out the Utes heartbreaking loss to Oregon

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NCAA Football: Pac-12 Conference Championship-Oregon vs Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Offense - F

Well, Utah picked the wrong time to struggle on offense. There really wasn’t anything that the Ute offense did well Friday night. The offensive line struggled to protect Tyler Huntley all night long as Huntley struggled to have time in the pocket and was sacked six times, the most sacks allowed in any game this season. Huntley had his worst night of the season as the QB threw for 193 yards but doubled his season total for interceptions with two on the night.

As a whole, the Utah offense struggled to move the ball on a consistent basis. The Utes tallied just 309 yards, the fewest yards in a game this season for the Utah offense and their 116 rush yards are the second-fewest this season.

Overall, this game was won at the line of scrimmage both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. But it was the play of the Utah offensive lineman that cost them the game tonight. Without ample time to find open receivers, and without establishing the run game, the Utah offense was never able to get into a rhythm in Santa Clara.

Defense - D

The Utes relied on their defense all season long, and ultimately it was their reliance on the staunch defense that cost them the Pac-12 Championship. The Utah defense was far from good Friday night in Santa Clara. It was an extremely uncharacteristic performance by a defense that ranks near the top of the country in several categories, but what was most shocking was the inability to stop the Ducks’ run game. The Utes gave up a season-high 239 rushing yards and a season-high 432 total yards to the Oregon offense.

Ultimately, I give the Utah defense a D because they were able to hold their own for the majority of the game but ultimately the Utah defense could only do so much to hold off the Oregon offense as the defense was forced to take the field for long stretches during the early parts of the game as the Utes’ offense was unable to maintain drives, forcing their defense to retake the field time after time. As I said, the Utes defense was far from good tonight, but when the offense continues to give ball back to the Ducks after 3-and-outs, you can’t expect the defense to hold their ground for all 60 minutes. That being said, this was not the dominant defense we have seen through the first 12 games of the season, and they couldn’t have picked a worse time to struggle to stop the run.

Special Teams - F

It really shows how much Kyle Whittingham trusts the kicking game when he repeatedly goes for it on fourth down inside of Oregon territory. If you have read my grades throughout the season you know that I wasn’t expecting the special teams to win the game for the Utes, but a good kicker changes the game for the Utes. Add in a blocked punt for the Utes and the lack of a decent kick return, the Utah special teams did nothing to help the Utes come home with a Pac-12 Championship.