Travis Wilson is better.
Before the game one of the big questions was whether or not we would see development from last season out of Travis Wilson. We did. Wilson showed that he has improved his ability to read defenses, check down receivers, and even run the ball. His delivery was fast and accurate. He was comfortable in the pocket. He looked downfield often. He wasn't a nervous freshman anymore but a seasoned starter who commanded his offense. His deep ball, his biggest weakness out of fall camp, is still weak and needs to get stronger and more accurate, but overall fans should be very happy with what they got out of Travis Wilson.
The linebackers are better too. Slightly.
They weren't perfect but the linebackers were good, good enough to contain Chuckie (for the most part) and not be the cause of any big plays. They were faster to react and faster to act which is a welcome upgrade from what we got out of the LB corps in 2012. Jacoby looked really good in Brian Blechen's absence, V.J. Fehoko was solid in the middle, and Jared Norris and L.T. Filiaga were reliable as well. There were some missed tackles here and there, but that can and will be corrected.
The offense is resilient.
Losing a playmaker like Kenneth Scott on the second drive of the season was a nightmare I'm sure the coaches hoped they wouldn't have to face. It was in the cards for this team, though, and they were forced to adjust to the loss quickly. Sean Fitzgerald was a fantastic replacement grabbing 5 balls for 79 yards while Anthony Denham was making Aggie men look like boys. These two along with Dres, who had a fantastic game himself, will need to make up for the absence of Scott this season but if this first game is any sign I think the Ute offense will fare just fine.
The defensive line lost a "star" but they reloaded once again
Star is gone, but the Utah defensive line looked every bit as good as it did in 2012. The defensive ends set the tone playing aggressive yet smart on just about every down. Nate Orchard finally looked like the disruptive force that we've hoped he would be. If his 8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF, and 1 FR are a sign of things to come then Ute fans can rest easy knowing their starting DE's will own the edges all season long. Tenny Palepoi, Latu Heimuli, and LT Tuipulotu did well to hold the line of scrimmage but weren't disruptive enough in the pass game. If this group can get better anywhere it's in the pass-rush department where the Utes seemed to lack consistent pressure all game long.
The defensive backs, however, are a work in progress
Keith McGill was pushed around and bullied all night against the Aggies starting with the opening defensive play from scrimmage. He looked hesitant and nervous in his first live game in two years, was pushed around, blocked with ease, and was thrown at constantly. The lack of experience from all of the DB's was prevalent and was a big weakness that will need to be addressed in a hurry. Everyone in the pass game including stalwart junior Eric Rowe need to be better going forward.
Andy Phillips is MONEY
It was the first live football game of his life, but you wouldn't have known it by watching him. Andy Phillips was cool under pressure and delivered three big field goals for the Utes without missing. Each kick was taken with a sort of confidence that you rarely see and he put each try away as if he was a fifth-year senior. Heck, even his onsides kick was executed – and recovered – perfectly! Phillips won't be perfect this season but if this first game is any indication of what Ute fans can expect to see then they may have just found themselves the best kicker the school has seen since Louie Sakoda.
A bowl game is attainable.
It's not just the fact that they won, it's the way they did it that should make most Ute fans confident that a bowl game is in this team's future. Utah State was a tough test out of the gates and the Utes passed with flying colors. They weren't perfect, but they were good enough against a very good opponent and in college football the name of the game is survive and advance. After Utah takes care of Weber State this weekend (a game they should win with ease) they'll have 10 remaining games and need to win just 4 of them to become bowl eligible. I'm confident they'll get there.
What We Learned - Week 1
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