Utah kept the train rolling in impressive fashion this past weekend as they demolished Weber State 70-7. The game was over before it began, yet the Utes got in plenty of valuable practice reps for the bulk of their active roster before the final whistle blew. The Utes will face off against a much better Oregon State team this weekend, but before we move on to that matchup let's see how each position group graded out on Saturday:
Quarterbacks: Travis Wilson was nearly flawless completing 14 of 19 passes with 4 of those incompletions recorded as drops. Wilson found Sean Fitzgerald open deep for an 80-yd score on what was a beautifully thrown long ball, something he struggled with against Utah State in the opener. Travis did damage on the ground too racking up 93 yards and 2 TDs while also giving future opponents something to watch for in that QB option keeper. Adam Schulz replaced Wilson at halftime and was mainly responsible with turning and handing the ball off, but he did complete 3 of 5 passes and looked comfortable leading the team for 2 quarters.
Running Backs: The Utes dominated on the ground rushing for 349 yards as a team between all runners. Lucky Radley led the way with 111 yards and 2 TDs, all of which came in the second half. Poole and York did a good job in limited attempts rushing for 44 and 28 yards respectively on a combined 7 reps (10.3 yard average) but we didn't get to see enough of them to really know what we have going into next week. Freshman Marcus Williams did some nice things in the fourth quarter marching the Utes down the field and punching in a goal line score. Williams finished with 10 carries for 42 yards and looked like a nice power back who has a future in this offense.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: 10 different receivers caught passes in this game highlighted by Fitzgerald's 80-yard score. Dres was the leading receiver with 103 yards and 1 touchdown and he could have had another had he not gotten tackled by the ankles. He did drop at least one pass that I can remember which marred what would have been a near-perfect day for the WR, but overall he looked like the very dangerous player we all hope he can be. Jake Murphy was underutilized yet again catching just 2 passes while the running backs were used a lot more snagging a combined 4 passes and getting a lot of flare-route looks. Freshmen Dominique Hatfield and Siale Fakailoatonga each had a reception and senior Geoff Norwood caught one as well.
Offensive Line: The line had a nice day, but to be fair they were facing an undersized, less-talented Wildcat defensive front. Weber State recorded just 6 tackles for loss and zero sacks while the Utes were able to run at-will (just ask Travis Wilson). Wilson also had all the time in the world to find his receivers down field and was flushed from the pocket only a handful of times. Isaac Asiata looked good at right tackle in his first start, something I'm sure the coaches are pleased with considering his services may be needed again in the near future. Not a perfect outing, but a very solid day from this group.
Defensive Line: The D-line was dominant. They surrendered just 69 rush yards on 43 attempts, an average of just 1.6 yards per carry; they gave up only 7 first downs on the ground, 1.75 per quarter, and accumulated 53 negative rush yards throughout the game; and they also recovered a fumble and had 10 different players record a TFL or half a TFL. They totaled 10.5 TFLs as a unit. WSU's quarterbacks were hurried all game long thanks in large part to a steady, consistent push from the front that resulted in many errant throws and broken plays. Tenny Palepoi had the best game of many DL who played registering 8 total tackles, 2.5 TFL's and 1.5 sacks.
Linebackers: This group continues to get better after a rough 2012 that had many fans complaining throughout the offseason. Jared Norris has gone from banished to the bottom of the depth chart to quality starter in a year's time and may be the best backer of the group. He was consistently around the football on Saturday and looked great in coverage. Utah's LB's did a great job of helping out all over the field, whether they were needed in run defense, pass coverage, or blitz schemes to pressure the Weber quarterbacks they were there and they impacted the game. The real test, though, comes this week against Oregon State.
Defensive Backs: Not that it affected the game, but I counted three missed interception opportunities, EASY missed interception opportunities, by Eric Rowe. These are plays that should be automatic and were similar to many dropped INT's that we saw last season. Rowe played a good game by all accounts but if Utah wants to win games in the Pac-12 and make it back to a bowl game he's going to have to start catching some of those balls. Michael Walker seemed to be a lot more comfortable in his second start at SS. Utah ran a lot of cover 1 with Rowe as the single-high safety which put Walker in man-to-man coverage on slot receivers and he did a very good job in that role. Utah may not be able to get away with that against Pac-12 receivers, but it's nice to know that he has the ability to play in man coverage if Utah wants to disguise pressure from corners or other positions.
Special Teams: Well, what can you say about a group that didn't really have to do much? Andy Phillips was 10/10 on extra point attempts, Phillips and Jamie Sutcliffe pushed 4 kickoffs through the back of the endzone, and Tom Hackett downed 3 punts inside the 20 and averaged 43.5 yards per punt. No mistakes were made, which is always a good thing. The highlight of the special teams was Mike Honeycutt's strip/fumble return for a touchdown just before halftime. This is a solid crew.
Position Grades: Utah vs Weber State
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