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Grading out Utah’s win over NIU

NCAA Football: Utah at Brigham Young Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Offense - B+

It was a slow start for the Utah offense for the second straight week, going scoreless in the first quarter of play. Once the offense got into a rhythm, however, they began to roll. The Utes scored three touchdowns in the second quarter, highlighted by three rushing touchdowns by three different players. It’s no secret that the strength of the Utah offense is the running game, but a balanced run game that even featured a TD carry by wide receiver Demari Simpkins only bolsters an already deadly ground game for the Utes.

Slow starts will need to be something of the past once the Utes get into conference play and the caliber of opponent improves. But for now Utah coaches and fans will live with them as they continue to adapt to life under a new offensive coordinator. In total, the Utes tallied 407 yards of total offense - 193 of which came on the ground. But the most important number is 0 which is how many times the offense turned the ball over.

Defense - B

Similarly to the offense, it took a while for the Utah defense to wake up on Saturday morning. Northern Illinois jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and thanks to a couple of blown assignments by the Utah defense, trailed just 21-17 at the half.

The Utes’ defense turned it on it the second half, however, as the held the Huskies scoreless in the second half. More impressive than that even was the fact that the Utah defense held Northern Illinois to no conversions on third down in the second half. In fact, the Huskies had just two conversions on third down for the duration of the game. It’s been said 1,000 times and will probably be said another 1,000, but Utah’s chances at a Pac-12 championship rely on this defense and throughout two weeks, they’ve shown you why.

Special Teams - A

You couldn’t have asked for a much better bounce-back performance by this Utah special teams unit after last week’s showing. There is still room to improve but for now, the special teams look like they are on the right track. Ben Lennon looked good in the punting game, booting 4 punts for 181 yards and a long of 62, while Jadon Redding converted on all 5 extra points.

Not much was asked of this special teams unit on Saturday morning, but they may be called upon soon to help Utah win some games, which makes games like this important to settling in and working out the kinks.