While I understand why Stoops decided to punt with 3:30 left, I don't agree with it. I understand the defense had been playing well and Utah had done little to move the ball, but the offense was playing well and the Cats had only one timeout left. On the road, with a fragile team I think you have to go for it.
My bigger problem was that Baugher booted the ball five yards deep into the endzone. At that point you have to pooch. You need the ball in play. Hang one up and make them fair catch. Heck, aim for the coffin corner. Just don't put the ball five yards deep.
I know they wanted to get Adam Austin reps. I know Richard Kovalcheck was a bit iffy at that point. In the end Kovalcheck responded. However, I think the move was to quick, too knee jerk. Kovalcheck proved he was a No. 1 guy tonight and you don't want to mess too much with his confidence.
The play calling
I thought the play calling was bizarre. In the first half it was iffy. They'd clump the runs and passes together. Rarely was there a nice balance. In fact early on it almost looked as if they were tipping off plays. Austin came in and things got better. A little more variety. It was almost as if they wanted to give Austin a better chance to shine.
The second half was a different story. The offense scored 21 points. Mike Canales mixed the run and pass. He got the ball to guys who was playing well. I really liked what I saw from the play calling and the players.
Now on the individual positions…
Kovalcheck was just average early, but really came on strong. Take away the final desperation drive and the four drops and he was 20-30 for 255 yards and two scores. As it stands he was 21-37.There were also a few plays where it looked like receivers either gave up on their routes or just didn't fight for the ball as hard as they could.
His interception that was returned for the score was just a terrible pass. He did not set his feet and threw into triple coverage. Other than that he got rid of the ball when he was pressured and made plays. He also ran well, winding up the team's second leading rusher.
Adam Austin was a solid 3-5 for 32 yards. He did a nice job but could not rally the team. He also got less protection than Kovalcheck did.
Mike Bell was very good. 99 yards on just 17 carries. He rattled off some nice runs and set up the Cats' final score with a 14 yard run. He picked up the blitz well for the most part and had the kind of game we've been accustomed to from Bell.
On the negative side, he did leave the game twice with minor injuries and did have a dropped pass but played well overall.
Gilbert Harris was solid. He played far more fullback than we were led to believe and sprung a few of Bell's longer runs. He was a solid He was very good as a receiver, catching three passes for 31 yards. He also had the touchdown run where he showed great leg drive and determination on the score.
Chris Henry had a night to forget. He had three carries and two fumbles. His first came on a bad pitch from Kovalcheck, but it was a ball he should have been able to hang onto. The second he just dropped after taking a shot to the legs. Not a good night.
Grade: C+ (Bell and Harris: B+, Henry: F)
"Money Mike" Thomas lived up to the hype and then some. The true freshman had 92 yards receiving and a score on seven catches. He was the most consistent threat for Cats and you can only imagine what is to come.
Syndric Steptoe had a Syndric Steptoe night. Six catches, ninety yards. Like Thomas, the undersized receiver was a consistent and reliable target.
The rest of the group was not so successful. Anthony Johnson had three catches, but also had two drops, including a killer on third and five late in the fourth quarter that killed a drive and may have cost the Cats the game.
Mike Jefferson was a non-factor, dropping one pass and not getting open on a few of the other passes thrown his way. B.J. Dennard played sparingly.
The most damaging news was that B.J. Vickers did not make the trip. An official reason for his being left behind was not given, but there is a chance that he could be out for awhile.
The Cats actually threw to the tight end, or more specifically, Brad Wood. Wood had three catches for 49 yards and a score. The other tight ends did not factor into the passing game but were used primarily as blockers.
The rest I'll abbreviate. Offensive line: Solid, not great. Protected passer well. Grade: C+
Defensive line: Inconsistent. Stopped run early, but let Ganther run wild in the middle. The ends did a decent job putting pressure on the passer, but did not get a sack. Grade: C
Linebackers: Made some plays, but missed some tackles. Had trouble with the option at times. Grade: C
Defensive backs: Big hits. Only gave up 220 yards, 47 of which came on a shovel pass. Grade: B
Special teams: Nick Folk was great. He made his only FG and all three PAT's. His kickoffs were deep and only once did Utah start over the 20. Danny Baugher struggled to pin the Utes deep, especially at the game's end. Syndric Steptoe had a long kickoff return but also muffed a punt. Grade: B-