Now that's the Utah team we've been waiting to see. Offense, defense, special teams. A complete game for the first time all year.
Brian Johnson made the move down to the sidelines to call the game, and it paid off...BIG TIME. His play calling was solid in this game, especially late in the second quarter and into the second the half when the offense was built around the run. Utah should have been doing this all season. The offensive numbers weren't out of this world, but were efficient, and right now, Utah needs efficiency.
Travis Wilson looks to be progressing from week to week. He wasn't great, but was still pretty good, leading the team on four touchdown drives, and managing the game well. Wilson's block on a Reggie Dunn reverse early in the game got the crowd pumped.
The run game is back on track. John White was in danger of losing his job to Kelvin York with how well York was running the ball. White responded with a great second half and went over 100 yards on the day (the magic number for a Utah win) and York's injury gave him almost all of the second half carries. That's a John White we haven't seen since 2011.
Why was the run game so effective? Besides increased effort out of White, the offensive line had maybe their best game of the year. The interior linemen were great with Vyncent Jones and Miles Mason playing the best games of their career. The line as a whole kept Wilson fairly clean. For the first time this season, they looked like a Pac 12 unit.
The defense brought it tonight. Speed, energy, and different looks to start the game before dropping back into their base defense after picking up a big lead. Star wasn't his dominant self, but didn't need to be with the ends getting pressure consistently, including multiple sacks for the first time since week 1. Zach Maynard did make some plays with his legs, but only a couple times was that because of linemen or linebacker breakdowns. Maynard is just quick and outran people.
The linebackers were assignment sound. When Cal did have success, it was when they went the way of VJ Fehoko. The sophomore linebacker just hasn't lived up to expectations this year. The runs by Maynard weren't a positive, and the long one by Bigelow showed their lack of speed, but again, they improved for the second week in a row.
The secondary had a pretty good day. The numbers by Maynard were decent, but a lot of that came late in the game when Utah had the second team guys in and went into a prevent D. Ryan Lacy is making a case for All Pac 12 honors with a shutdown of Keenan Allen, and Brian Blechen had by far his best game this year. Eric Rowe again struggled, but Blechen's play made up for it. A little concerning to see the D take its foot off the pedal in the 4th quarter when they gave up 21 points by going to a prevent defense, but much of that was against the second stringers. I wanted to see Whitt and Sitake really put the hammer down.
Reggie Dunn. What can you say? Two kickoff returns for touchdowns, doing a lot of it on his own. Solid blocking, but Dunn made cuts on both returns that got him in the end zone. It felt like Shaky Smithson was out there again, electrifying the crowd and pushing the energy in the stadium through the roof.
Now, not to take anything away from the Utes, but Cal is poorly coached, and gave up pretty early in this one. This will be the last time Ute fans will see Jeff Tedford. The guy is toast.
So, the first Pac 12 win of the season is in the books. Utah won a game it had to win, and in convincing fashion. Can they build on this and put together a nice second half run like they did in 2011? The schedule is fairly soft from here on out with every game at least winnable. With the Utes needing to grab 3 of their last 4 to become bowl eligible, how does that happen?
This week at home against Washington State is another must win, and is a likely win. The Cougs haven't won a conference game all year, including a loss to Colorado, and were waxed by the same BYU team that Utah beat earlier this year. Using the transitive property, this weekend should result in a comfortable victory. The following week is a road trip to Washington, and probably the toughest remaining game. The Huskies just knocked off a top 10 team at home in Oregon State, and already beat a ranked Stanford squad earlier in the year in Seattle. Washington at home is a top 20 team. On the road, they're a bottom 20 team. Utah will have their work cut out for them in what should be the toughest remaining game. Then it's home against Arizona. The Wildcats are now ranked, but with a road game at UCLA this week, that might be short lived. They'll host Colorado the week before coming to Salt Lake City in a game that could allow them to rest their starters for much of the second half. This is the key game. Beat Arizona and Utah Utah should be bowl bound after likely taking care of Colorado to close the year.
Game Review: Utah vs Cal
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