Utah Offensive Line vs Utah State Defensive Line
Utah Offensive Line
Overall this group performed well for the Utes considering they were breaking in 2 (2½) new starters, but it's difficult to say how much they were really tested. In the passing game they were nearly flawless surrendering zero sacks and giving quarterback Jordan Wynn ample time to make his reads and throws. Wynn was rarely pressured and was hit even less. When it came to the run Northern Colorado didn't present a formidable defensive front and yet the Ute line failed to open up many big holes. Most of John White's yards came after contact and he was only able to break one decent run all game. Pass protection seems alright but run blocking needs some improvement if Utah is going to have a similar threat on the ground that it presented in 2011.
Utah State Defensive Line
Utah State runs a 3-4 defense which means they'll put 3 down on the line for the majority of the game but they'll mix it up often using anywhere from 1 to 5 linemen at any given time. Like Utah, it's really hard to gauge the performance of the Utah State starters in their opener because of the competition level but one thing does stick out when reviewing their game stats. Half of the defense's tackles for loss and sacks came from the 3 defensive linemen. Defensive end Connor Williams was the most active of the 3 posting 1 TFL, 1 sack, and 1 QB hurry as well as 2.5 tackles while Al Lapuaho and Havea Lasike combined for 3 tackles and 1.5 TFL's. You'd probably like to see more when facing an FCS foe like Southern Utah but the lack of total plays for SUU kept the stats low for Utah State. This group will give Utah a lot of different looks and stunts but they shouldn't give the Utes much trouble.
Utah Running Backs and Tight Ends vs Utah State Linebackers
Utah Running Backs and Tight Ends
This was certainly Utah's strength against Northern Colorado as the bulk of the team's total yardage and scores came from either the running backs (John White) or tight ends (Jake Murphy). White didn't have the size of holes to run through that he's used to but he still managed to break the 100-yard barrier for the 9th time in his career. White finished with an average of 5.0 yards per carry despite struggling breaking the ‘big run' (his longest rush was 28 yards). Jake Murphy led a solid Ute tight end group in receptions (6) and yards (78) and also managed to find the end zone twice which led all Ute receivers. Two Ute tight end's caught passes as David Rolf added 2 catches for 7 yards. It was clear the tight end position is a focus this season as these two combined for 8 of team's 21 total pass receptions.
Utah State Linebackers
As was stated earlier in a 3-4 defense you expect the bulk of the tackles and defensive statistics to come from this category and that was the case in their opener. Starters Bojay Filimoeatu, Jake Doughty, Zach Vigil, and Kyler Fackrell combined to make just 7.5 tackles with no sacks and no tackles for loss, but again the low number of plays for SUU kept these numbers down. Reserve LB LaBrad Harold was the best player of the bunch as he added 2 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 INT to the numbers put up by this Aggie unit. The backers were very active against the run limiting SUU to just 56 rush yards on 27 attempts for just 2.7 per carry - but John White, Jake Murphy, and the rest of Utah's weapons are in a whole different world than SUU and I didn't see enough on film to believe they can slow this unit down for an entire four quarters.
Utah Quarterback and Wide Receivers vs Utah State Corners and Safeties
Utah Quarterback and Wide Receivers
Jordan Wynn's return to the field was less than spectacular when put up against the eye test but although he didn't hit on any of his big, downfield attempts he did manage to have himself a successful night statistically. In his first live game since October of 2011 Wynn completed 19 of 27 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns – a stat line that would make any quarterback happy. However, his inability to throw an accurate deep ball and his lone interception both soured what was otherwise a great performance after 2011's season-ending injury. If Utah wants to make this game easy on themselves Wynn will need to complete more than one pass of at least 23 yards (his long vs UNC). At wideout Utah showed it has a number of weapons despite not connecting on a home-run pass. Dres Anderson and Devonte Christopher got behind the defense a number of times while Anthony Denham, Ken Scott, and Reggie Dunn each chipped in with receptions.
Utah State Corners and Safeties
The one unit you typically hope has a rather quiet night is the one that did the most work for the Aggies against pass-happy Southern Utah. The defensive backfield consisting of starters Will Davis, Frankie Sutera, McKade Brady, Nevin Lawson, and Terrance Alson combined to make 14 tackles, a sack, and a pass breakup while limiting talented SUU quarterback Brad Sorensen to just 153 yards on 12 completions (31 attempts, 39%). This group is quick and likes to play man-heavy coverage similar in style to Utah. They challenge receivers at the line and aren't afraid to blitz from the secondary to throw off an unsuspecting quarterback. USU had terrific coverage on deep routes throughout the game and saw the most trouble with short drag routes across the middle of the field. I expect receivers like Dres Anderson and Reggie Dunn, fast players who can play over the middle, to see success in this role on Friday.
Utah Defensive Line vs Utah State Offensive Line
Utah Defensive Line
Utah's highly-touted defensive line did what it was expected to do against an opponent on the level of Northern Colorado. On 24 carries the Bears were only able to escape with 35 yards as the strength of the Ute defense shut down all hope of a rushing attack from the opening drive. Star Lotulelei was double and triple-teamed throughout the game and still managed to fight his way into the backfield for 3 tackles and a TFL and the attention paid to him opened up the players around him as the rest of the D-line combined for 9 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles. There is a lot of depth, speed, and all-around talent in this mix of players and when put together they can attack you from any of the 4 positions at any time.
Utah State Offensive Line
Utah State's offensive line played fantastic football at times and made glaring errors at times. Overall they played well enough to help the offense produce 569 yards of total offense mixed between the run and the pass but some of the errors they made will need to be cleaned up in a hurry if they want to see success against Utah's front four. Southern Utah was in the backfield more than I'm sure the Aggies would like as the T-Birds were able to sack Keeton twice and pressure him a few more times, but overall the Aggies rushed for 265 yards and 3 scores which always looks good on the O-line. Center Tyler Larsen and left guard Jamie Markosian have the task of defending Lotulelei, a job I'm sure they're not looking forward to.
Utah Linebackers vs Utah State Running Backs and Tight Ends
Trevor Reilly, V.J. Fehoko, and a mixture of L.T. Filiaga, Jared Norris, and Dave Fagergren were great last Thursday admittedly against a weak opponent with little run threat in the backfield. Coverage in the pass game was better than expected from this unit which is promising for the Utes moving forward. As has been customary for Utah over the past few season it was a linebacker (Fagergren) that led the team in tackles with 6 while the rest of the corps chipped in 12 tackles, 1.5 TFL's, 1 sack and a fumble recovery. This week's opponent is much better in both the run and passing games so where last week's game was more of a tune-up this week is where this unit will really need to step up and prove itself.
Utah State Running Backs and Tight Ends
Many, including myself, expected the loss of running back Robert Turbin to hit the Aggies hard. If week 1 is any indicator for the rest of the season I think they'll be okay. As a team the Aggies rushed for 265 yards against Southern Utah and it was backup Joe Hill, not starter Kerwyn Williams that made the most noise. Hill broke free for 3 touchdowns on his way to a career-high 116 yards while Williams chipped in 66 yards of his own. Together the duo showed a lot of speed and flash that had SUU defenders diving and falling all over the field. There is depth beyond Williams and Hill but expect to see a heavy dose of those two on Friday night. Four tight ends played for the Aggies but only two recorded receptions. Utah State's multiple attack is focused heavily on either the run or spreading defenses out so the tight ends seemed – at least against SUU – to get lost in the shuffle.
Utah Corners and Safeties vs Utah State Quarterback and Wide Receivers
Utah Corners and Safeties
Utah's corners were tested against Northern Colorado and they came out on top more often than not. UNC completed just 11 passes against the Utah secondary averaging less than 8 yards per reception and totaling only 79 yards. Mo Lee and Eric Rowe both dropped sure-interceptions, Quade Chappuis filled in well for the suspended Brian Blechen, and despite missing nickel corner Reggie Topps Utah didn't seem to miss a beat. Topps is back this week and is sure to add another solid cover corner against the USU spread attack; Blechen, however, is not which means Chappuis will have to step up once again. Utah's top three starters at corner are upper-classmen with experience which should help as they stand to face a tough aerial-assault from the Aggies.
Utah State Quarterback and Wide Receivers
Sophomore Chuckie Keeton was impressive against Southern Utah starting the game perfect on his first 10 or so throws, a stretch that included two beautiful touchdown passes of 48 and 35 yards. The Keeton-led Aggies scored touchdowns on their opening three possessions, two of which started inside the Aggie 5 yard line. Keeton finished the game 22 of 25 passing (88%) with 2 TD's but if that's not impressive enough for you he also rushed for 27 yards and like the running backs behind him he showed a lot of quickness and agility. On the outside, top receiver Matt Austin led the Aggies with 119 yards receiving and he really established himself as an all-around threat. Austin beat SUU deep multiple times and averaged over 23 yards per reception which makes him a target the Utes will really need to keep an eye on. Chuck Jacobs, who doubles as USU's primary return man, hauled in 64 yards of his own including the above mentioned TD grab. He's a solid second option with a lot of speed that will test whoever has to cover him.
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