Jon Hays bounced back from a subpar debut as a starter to patiently lead Utah's offense up the field. Hays completed a respectable 61% of his passes, throwing 14-23 for 127 yards and 1 TD (5.5 yards per attempt). Most importantly, Hays did not turn the ball over against Pitt. The normally agile Hays did not use his legs much against Pitt, opting to stay inside the pocket, sometimes staying too long. Hays was sacked 7 times on the afternoon, with some of those sacks being Hays' fault. The offense moved well with Hays, but struggled to get into the end zone. Ultimately, the Utes are pleased with Hays performance due to his completion %, 1 TD pass, and 0 turnovers.
Running Back: A
Utah's game plan against Pitt was clear…run the ball early and often. While this may sound like it's not much of a surprise, Utah typically is 50% run and 50% pass, with John White getting 15-20 touches per game. Against Pitt, Utah ran the ball 61% of plays, and White carried the ball 36 times for 171 yards (4.8 per rush). White also caught the ball twice out of the backfield, though didn't pick up much yardage. Without White, Utah would have been in big trouble.
Wide Receiver: C-
With Devonte Christopher sidelined on Saturday, Utah called up on the young freshmen duo of Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott often. Dres had 5 touches on the night for 45 yards of total offense. Ute captain Luke Matthews came up with what may have been the biggest offensive play of the night when he took a tipped pass 33 yards for a touchdown, turning the momentum of the game. The group ultimately accounted for 9 catches for 120 yards. The group didn't meet expectations in the passing game, but did some things well that won't show up on a stat sheet, such as blocking on the perimeter and upfield.
Tight End: D
Unfortunately for the Utes, their starting TE Dallin Rogers hurt his knee while running after the catch on his only reception of the day. Kendrick Moeai and Jake Murphy replaced Rogers in the lineup, but ultimately, the tight ends finished with just 2 receptions for 0 yards. In the rush game, the TEs did a good job of blocking for White, walking away from Saturday able to feel good about that aspect of their performance.
Offensive Line: B+
Any offensive line has 2 basic responsibilities, protect the quarterback on passing downs, and create running lanes for the running backs on rushing downs. Utah's OLine struggled with the pass, bug did well with the Run. As a team, Utah rushed for 197 yards on running plays (sacks excluded). In passing situations, Utah game up half as many sacks (7) as pass completions (14). On the grading front, Tony Bergstrom led the Utes by winning 85% of plays. John Cullen had a much improved performance, winning 84% of plays. Tevita Stevens and Sam Brenner both won 80%. Latu Heimuli alternated series with Miles Mason, Heimuli won 67% of plays, Mason won 65% of plays. There were some mental mistakes and penalties that hurt the Utes, and much criticism has been placed on Cullen for his personal foul in the fourth quarter that took Utah out of field goal range, and nearly cost Utah the game, but before the whistle, Cullen had a very, very solid night, and the Utes will have a lot of success this season if Cullen plays as well the rest of the season as he played against Pitt.
Defensive Line: A+
The success of Utah's defense received a lot of attention nationally. While Pitt's offense isn't great, the same can't be said about Pitt's star RB Ray Graham (the nation's leading rusher coming into the Utah game). Graham is a huge weapon, and Utah shut him down. Graham gained just 47 yards rushing on 12 carries (3.8 per carry), with a long of 21 yards. Remove that single rush, and Graham ran for just 26 yards on 11 carries (2.3 per carry). As a team, Pitt finished with 70 yards rushing. Utah's DLine was dominant. Derrick Shelby led Utah with 7 tackles on the day, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 batted passes, and an INT that he returned for a touchdown. Shelby won the national defensive player of the week for his efforts. Utah's defense accounted for 6 sacks on the night, Star Lotulelei had a sack from his DT position, and Joe Kruger picked up his first sack of the year. All these stats are impressive on their own, but when you consider Pitt had just 61 total plays.
For all the good things said about Utah's defensive line, the same can be said of Utah's linebackers. Matt Martinez was great, picking up 5 tackles and 1 sack. Trevor Reilly once again keeps making it unthinkable for coaches to take him off the field. Reilly finished with 3 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 QB hurry. Utah's linebackers provided great help against both the run and the pass. An overall tremendous effort by Utah's linebackers.
For the first time this season, fans saw a heavy dose of converted WR Mo Lee at CB. Lee provided the extra size necessary for the Utes to defend Pitt's massive WRs. Lee finished with 4 tackles and 2 Pass Break-Ups. Conroy Black also had a nice day, picking up a pair of tackles, a pass break-up, and an interception that he returned 34 yards before wisely falling to the ground to end the game. Most impressively, Pitt finished just 9-30 in the passing game (30%) for 50 total yards…generating a whopping average of just 1.67 yards per pass attempt.
Brian Blechen got the start at strong safety for the Utes, and played very, very well. Blechen finished with 6 tackles on the day (2nd on team), 2 TFLs, and 1 sack. Next to Blechen was Eric Rowe, who continues to improve each week. Perhaps the most telling statistic for Utah was Eric Rowe's total tackles…0! Normally that may be discouraging for a team, but on Saturday, this stat represented how many times the Pitt offense got past Utah's DLine and LBs. Rowe was well positioned all day, and took away everything over the top. Rowe did finish with 1 PBU.
Special Teams: F
Ute Kicker Coleman Peterson had a career best 4 field goals on 4 attempts for the Utes, and also went 2/2 on extra points. That fact alone makes it almost impossible for a Special Teams unit to earn a failing grade for a game…somehow Utah found a way to do it. In spite of Peterson's career day, Utah's special teams were absolutely horrendous. Early in the first half, Utah allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown, where the returner was hit by multiple Utes who didn't even attempt to wrap up. The returner looked nearly surprised as he ran untouched the remaining 80 yards for a touchdown. On the following series, Utah's punt team allowed a bad blocked punt, sending the ball the opposite direction. Pitt recovered the blocked punt for a touchdown, and Utah was down by double digits early. It didn't end there, Utah had multiple shanked punts, giving Pitt's offense better field position than they should have had. On coverage, twice Utah literally hit punts into the endzone, that should have been easily downed inside the 5…EASILY! In the 4th quarter, Utah had a narrow lead and had the ball deep in Pitt territory. A field goal would have put Utah up by 8 points, and forced Pitt to march 80 yards and convert a 2-point conversion to tie the game. Thanks to a personal foul penalty, Utah was forced to punt the ball instead. On the punt attempt, Utah's punt team was not ready, the snap was inaccurate, and punter Nick Marsh fell on the loose ball, giving Pitt the ball with a short field, and a 5 point deficit. Somehow, with the shutout effort by Utah's defense, Special Teams almost cost Utah this game.
Utah at Pitt - Position Grades
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