The 27-10 win over Montana State was not the best showing in the world for the Utes and while it isn't all doom and gloom, by no means was it anywhere near a great performance. Coach Whittingham did say that Utah would have a tough time winning games against the Pac-12 if they play the way they did Thursday night, and that is true. The passing game in general was not good as Jordan Wynn passed for only 101 yards going 15-for-23, but he did have two touchdown passes. On the first drive of the game Wynn went 1-for-3 and was off target on his two incompletions.
After the first drive that resulted in a punt after only three plays the offense then drove down the field on four consecutive drives that resulted in a 24-0 lead. Two of those drives were set up with a Brian Blechen interception and a blocked punt.
It seemed that the play calling by Norm Chow took a conservative approach with shorter passes that did not require Wynn to exert his shoulder. To be fair, the Utes did pull a couple of trick out of their bag with a fake punt, a bootleg on 4th-and-1 and a reverse. Why show USC anything on film to help them prepare for next weeks game when Utah does not need to open up their offense against an opponent they could easily handle by playing conservatively and not tipping their hand. Even with conservative play calling, Wynn did not seem confident in some of his throws. That is somewhat to be expected in his first game back after shoulder surgery, but having miscues and bad throws should have gone away after the first few series. These issues should have been worked out in fall camp.
The bright spot on the offense was the running of John White who had 150 yards rushing and two touchdowns in his first division one game and on only 19 carries. If not for tripping on a 25 yard gain White would have had close to 200 yards and three scores. He showed that even with his smaller frame, he is capable of running up the middle against opposing defenses. White was the best part of the offense Thursday night. The running game is an aspect that the offense is going to focus on as the Utes had 38 carries on the night. Expect this to carry over each week and for Utah to be above 30 rushes per game. The overall rushing performance did well even though the offensive line was shuffled with left tackle John Cullen sitting out the game and newcomer Miles Mason taking his spot.
Once Utah got out to their 24-0 lead it seemed like the offense was disinterested in the second half and the play calling went to a more conservative nature. Getting out to such a big lead, the hope was that the Utes would hang 40 on Montana State, but instead only scored a field goal in the second half.
The defensive unit was the better of the two by holding Montana State to 258 total yards. The defensive line did a solid job and the only real concern was the eight-play, 79-yard touchdown scoring drive at the end of the second half. Being able to contain Denarius McGhee to only eight rushing yards was huge. McGhee is considered one of the best quarterbacks at the FCS level and during Thursday's game he kept plays alive with his feet, but ultimately he was stopped with minimal damage on most plays.
Brian Blechen had a good game in his first career start at the linebacker position with two interceptions. The first one he dropped back into coverage and then just stepped in front of the Montana player for an easy pick. The other came when Montana State was driving deep into Ute territory and Blechen returned the interception 20 yards.
The defense overall played an above average game and did not allow many big plays. The secondary was a concern, bur they played fairly well with only Ryan Lacy getting beat on a deep ball. Lacy also was beat at least one other time but the pass was overthrown. Overall the defense did a solid job and kept the running game in check, but there is always room for improvement. The only concern was the two deep pass plays that the Utes allowed, they need to eliminate those plays.
A 27-10 win is not the score that most expected going up against a FCS team, but there were bits and pieces where Utah showed where they will be a good team. The main concern is to get the offense up to the level the defense played next week when the Utes take on USC.