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Utes fall to USC 33-17 in season opener

NCAA Football: Southern California at Utah Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we had a football game, and it wasn’t always pretty, but it was a nice distraction. Coming into the game there were a million unknowns, and now there is maybe half a million unknowns. With it only being about a five game season, if the Utes are lucky, a team recovering from a big COVID outbreak just a couple of weeks ago, with many of the guys coming out of quarantine likely this week, and combine that with all the new faces, this game was going to be an uphill battle - especially with USC having two games under their belts. Shoot, as a fan, this was the first game in a long time where I wasn’t pacing like crazy or going nuts. Instead, I wanted to observe on what the future of the program looks like, because this year is a wash.

The Utes battled, and really was in striking distance the entire game, and I kind of thought it would really get away from them there for a while, but they really battled. The offense has some work to do, but I like a lot of the pieces over there. While they only put up 300 yards of offense, it was set back early when starting QB Cam Rising went out of the game with some kind of injury. Cam showed some flashes of play making on the limited drives he saw with the Utes. He did make the two crucial turnovers, but for his first start against a talented USC team, I liked what I saw. Jake Bentley came in for him, and he struggled much of the game, but when he found a rhythm he did a good job getting the offense moving too. Ultimately, the offense is going to come down to the offensive line. They struggled in this opener, as the QBs were under fire all game long, and the running backs didn’t have a lot of room to make plays. For these games that they do play this year, the line needs to focus on improvement for 2021. There is a lot of skill on offense, but if the line doesn’t perform, it won’t matter. If they come together and play good ball, then this offense could put up some points. The running back group was fun to watch and have a ton of guys, and they rolled them all out tonight. Brumfield, Wilmore, and Bernard all had nice games and high points, but it was freshman Ty Jordan that really opened my eyes. He is dynamic and will be a major weapon as the program moves forward. But as the line goes, this offense goes, simple as that.

On defense, with so many freshmen out there, they held their own for much of the game. Sure, they missed some tackles and gave up some plays, Clark Phillips was picked on much of the game, but they also did a nice job for much fo the game in coverage, and made USC earn their points. Nephi Sewell had a major game, with a scoop and score and an interception. The defensive line also did rather well overall, even if they didn't finish some plays like they needed to. The defense is going to be a monster when they mature. I can’t wait to watch them as they learn and get experience, because so many youngsters out there making some plays. There is going to be growing pains with this unit, but when I thought USC may march on them a bit, many of USCs points came on super short fields due to turnovers.

Now the Utes turn their attention to ASU, maybe. ASU is in the same place the Utes were a week ago, coming off of back to back canceled games. I’m not sure if their outbreak was as severe as the Utes, but we’ll be playing the “will they / won’t they” game all week long on if the game will happen. Regardless, if the game happens, Utah will likely be playing with their “second string” QB Bentley, since it looks like Rising may be down for a bit, and they need the offensive line to improve dramatically.

What a strange season, but it’s finally started for the Utes, and we’ll enjoy whatever football we get in 2020.