Jordan Wynn was a mixed hat in the season opener Thursday night. On his second throw of the night he uncorked an ugly deep ball intended for Dres that was easily intercepted by the D. Wynn was quick to rebound looking sharp on short and intermediate throws. Wynn connected on 8 straight passes, on the 7th he hooked up with Jake Murphy on a nice touchdown pass. Wynn looked deep to Devonte Christopher throwing a ball just beyond Devonte's outstretched hands, after DVC adjusted his route, this is play that needs to be made by Wynn. Wynn also underthrew Kenneth Scott at the end of the half, followed up by a terrible decision to throw a check down to John White IV with seconds remaining in the half. There was good and bad with Wynn, ideally he would have thrown the deep ball better and had more than 200 passing yards against Northern Colorado, but he did rebound well after his early INT. Wynn also looked relatively mobile and took a few hits without showing any issues.
Travis Wilson also made his Utes debut completing both of his passes and running for 2 TDs out of the wildcat formation. Wilson's pass completions were first down conversions on 3rd down and 4th down, pretty impressive poise, though being up 41-0 vs UNC I'm sure helped out. Wilson is a rare athlete and looked pretty good against UNC, but he hurdled a defender on his first play, which certainly is exciting, but also dangerous and something Coach Whittingham said he was going to discourage. Jon Hays did not make an appearance last night, despite being the #2 QB.
Running backs B
John White IV carried the rock 24 times along with 2 receptions. He gashed the UNC D for 119 rushing yards and 13 receiving yards. John White IV found holes with his great vision and explosion and exploited them a few times. The run blocking was inconsistent and a lot of times linebackers were meeting the Wolfman at the line of scrimmage and White would use his power to make something out of nothing knocking out a lot of 4, 5, and 6 yard gains. His long run of the day was a 28 yard run he cut outside, White was nearly gone on the play. As for his backups, Jarrell Oliver and Kelvin York both ran hard, but were unable to get any rhythm. Oliver had a lot of green in front of him on one carry but was tripped up over a shoe-string tackle. Kelvin York showed his toughness on his 8 yard carry in the 4th quarter, ping balling off of multiple defenders. Run blocking needs to improve for these guys to shine, and against Northern Colorado they never got consistent blocking.
Wide Receivers C+
Dres Anderson looked pretty good finding open space a few times throughout the night making 4 catches for 53 yards. But after Dres nobody stood out. Devonte and Anthony Denham had 2 catches a piece, and Reggie Dunn, Kenneth Scott each had a catch late in the 4th from Travis Wilson. This group was far superior to Northern Colorado's secondary, and yet you couldn't really tell by watching. Part of this falls on Jordan Wynn, but overall the wide receivers seem uninspired, which is something that needs to change going forward. A positve note was Anthony Denham, Luke Matthews, and Devonte Christopher were all doing a solid job blocking, especially Denham who drove his man 15 yards down field on a few players.
Tight Ends/H-Back A
The tight ends had a total of 9 catches , only one less than our talented group of WRs. The key thing is when the tight ends made their plays, Wynn looked for them on 3rd and 4th downs throughout the night, and they converted. Jake Murphy led the way on paper with 6 catches 78 yards and 2 TDs, but Dallin Rogers and David Rolf's worth were nearly on par with Murphy's performance. Rogers and Rolf were 2 of the best run blockers all night, and Moeai and Tonga were also in the mix on blocking. Max Moala was in the backfield a few times with Jarrell Oliver or Kelvin York, which made up a powerful backfield. This unit should shine throughout the season, they have a lot of depth and they all complement each other so well.
Offensive Line B-
The pass blocking was solid. Wynn never got sacked, he had time to go through his progressions, and if my grade was strictly for pass blocking, I'd give this unit an A. But, pass blocking is only have of this units job, and the other half, run blocking, was poor. Bot, Brenner, and Stevens would all grade out with B+'s or better individually, but Jeremiah Tofaeono and Miles Mason's half of the line was sub-par. John White IV was pestered by UNC's D in the backfield or line of scrimmage about 8 times and most of those carries were behind Mason and JT. Vyncent Jones subbed in late in the 4th quarter for JT and that was the only subbing for the O-line. Percy Bot's debut was as good as anyone could have imagined, he looked strong out there. Tevita's performance was borderline dominant as well.
Defensive Line A
The D Line was too much for Northern Colorado. 2 sacks hardly speaks for the troubles Fakahafua, Star, the Krugers, and Trevor Reilly caused UNC. The line broke up 4 passes, and had 5 TFL. Nate Fakahafua was extremely active from the get-go and resembled a volleyball player at times batting down passes. Nate nearly had a pick 6 early on. Dave and Joe Kruger played well, Dave crushed the QB after Sean Sellwood pinned UNC on their own 3 yard line. Joe Kruger had the play of the night when he read the QB perfectly and ended up with an interception he took back to the house. Joe looked incredibly athletic for a 6'7 280 DE. Star did what Star does, demand double teams, and when they decided not to he made them pay, looking like a shark who smelled blood, swallowing the RB in the backfield. The backups were subbed in throughout the game and Viliseni, Niasi Leota (who was doubtful), Thretton, and LT Tuipulota all did a good job and hardly looked like second and third stringers. Opposing Offenses may have nightmares watching film on these guys.
The linebackers were solid, but not spectacular. They were led by the senior and leader of this young unit, Dave Fagergren. Fagergren got the start, despite being listed as a backup on the latest depth chart. He looked a lot like Matt Martinez and Chaz Walker out there; Dave constantly showed a nose for the ball, recording a team leading 6 tackles. V.J. Fehoko looked a little lost in his first start, recording just one tackle. L.T. Filiaga looked good in the run game, as did Jason Whittingham, and 3rd string Nick Brown. Jared Norris made his mark on the game recovering a fumble that Seni jarred loose. Due to the fact that the Utes controlled the game, holding the ball for over 60% of the game, the linebackers didn't get a whole lot of work against UNC. Overall, they played a clean game, missing very few assignments, yet you'd like to see them making more plays behind the dominant D Line.
The secondary played pretty well. Northern Colorado only averaged 3 yards per pass, and were 11 for 26 in the game. Lacy and Lee gave UNC's wide receivers a cushion early on, but after an initial few completions they began to shut it down. Quade Chappuis was solid filling in for Blechen, he and Rowe did a good job letting nothing behind them, and coming up on the short passes. Eric Rowe had a dumb penalty (facemask) extending a drive early on. Rowe and Lee also dropped what should have been easy interceptions in the first half. Ryan Lacy made some great tackles, and was one of the few Utes that displayed high energy throughout the game. Lewis Walker had one of the biggest hits on the night, causing a fumble that UNC recovered. The secondary could have had a big night, but a few dropped interceptions and early on soft coverage prevented them earning that A.
Special Teams B
The good, the bad, and the ugly! Sean Sellwood and our coverage teams on punt and kickoff were flawless. Sean Sellwood's punt downed by captain Luke Matthews at the 3 was when momentum swung the Utes way. Nick Marsh is a phenomenial kick off specialist, putting ample hang time on every one of his kickoffs, making it easy for our coverage team to smoother UNC's return game well before the new touchback at the 25 yard line. Our punt return team was mediocre, at best. Geoff Norwood struggled to reach the wall, and Charles Henderson fielded a punt at the Utes 10 yard line that nearly resulted in a shut out ending turnover. And Coleman Petersen and the kicking game got off to a rocky start. Petersen missed a 27 yard field goal at the end of the first half, and also missed a PAT. Hold on to your seats.
I think Brian Johnson's debut was a good one. The game-plan was not vanilla, but it wasn't a NASCAR tempo either. A few tricks, but I think it is clear BJ and the offense kept some aces up their sleeves and a few rabbits in the hat. Sitake's D posted a shutout, not much to complain about there. I think Coach Whittingham and Co did a good job subbing guys in and out, while allowing the starters to play the majority of the game. It was a smart move to let the O-Line stay out there the whole game, and let Wilson play behind them, vs playing with the second string guys. Coach Roderick and Coach Hill did a good job getting different guys reps early and often. I think the Utes could have run up the score in the 2nd half a lot more than they did, but realized there was no reason to.
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