It wasn’t really pretty at the end, but the Utes got their first win of this pandemic season by topping Oregon State 30-24 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. As I’ve said this entire “season,” this is almost a glorified spring ball, at least in my mind, so it’s all about improvement game-to-game for this team, and I saw another game of improvement this week, in all three phases.
On offense, the team put up 400 yards through three quarters. Biggest of all, they didn’t turn the ball over, which is major. It also looks like they’ve established who RB1 is going to be for the next three or so years with Ty Jordan absolutely taking the program by storm. After getting over 100 total yards a week ago, Jordan had almost 200 tonight, with 167 coming on the ground, while averaging over six yards per carry. Jordan has that Zack Moss look to him, just in a smaller package. He’s hard to bring down, and he sets up 2nd and short time after time. It’s hard no to lean on him all game long, and the Utes did that a bit too much late, but man, what a major center piece as a true freshman. The offensive line was also better tonight, as they moved guys around, for much of the game, they didn’t give up a sack, and gave Bentley some nice pockets to throw from. Speaking of Bentley, he did a nice job in the pocket. Yes, he missed a couple of touchdown throws, which was maddening, but overall on the game, he managed things well. Also, we saw the reintegration of Britain Covey, as he had 54 yards receiving and a touchdown. It was good to see him back. Also, Brant Kuithe was a focal point, which was also great to see, as he had 76 yards receiving. I want to see Kuithe in the run/sweep game a bit more, like last year. The one area we now need to see the offense improve is now finishing. That means finishing drives and finishing the game. Utah left 12 points on the field in the first quarter, with the two miss throws to Kuithe, and getting stopped on the two yard line settling for a field goal. Lastly, that means finishing in the fourth quarter. The offense could have put the game away, but they only picked up about 20 yards in the fourth quarter, and had multiple three and outs. They essentially had 400 yards in the three quarters, and if they could have put together fourth quarter, it would have been a blow out.
On defense, another really solid effort for the young guys, and another interception that helped set up one of the first scores of the game. They also picked up three sacks. The young group did a really nice job really at all three levels for most of the game. They held OSU to 335 yards on the game, with 160 of those coming in the fourth quarter. The defensive line was getting the quarterback out of the pocket, and at times abused the offensive line. At linebacker Devin Lloyd really looked like a star tonight, especially early, as he was everywhere. This defense, after three games, looks like a pretty traditional Utah defense, which is great news considering all of the youth. Similar to the offense, this defense needs to learn to finish. Giving up all those yards in the fourth quarter was disappointing, and giving Oregon State basically a touchdown after a series full of penalties was maddening. Multiple hands to the face, some holdings, some personal fouls, all kinds of defensive penalties were abound, and they gave Oregon State life in that fourth quarter. It’s still a fun group to watch, though.
How about special teams too? After a pretty quiet year last year, we saw some special teams highlights. Of course, Redding was good kicking the ball, but Covey with the 60 yard punt return for the touchdown may have been the highlight of the night. The only downfall was the onside kick they lost. It’s great to see Utah’s special teams make a huge impact on the game.
Now the Utes turn to an improved Colorado team. Can they now take another step and play a full 60 minutes? That’s the big question, and if they get CU down, can they bury them? This is a fun team to watch, and I think I’m starting to learn all of their names.