Utah won their fourth straight rivalry game on Saturday, as they beat the Cougars of BYU, 20-13 to claim their third win of the season. The game shouldn't have been as close as it was, but the Utes still put together a very good performance on the road at Lavell Edwards Stadium, or as it should be renamed "Rice Eccles South," as Utah has won 8 of the last 11 rivalry games in BYU's home stadium. Let's take a look at how each position group graded out in the win for the Utes.
Travis Wilson once again was efficient and mistake free on Saturday, as he completed 69% of his passes for 273 yards, 2 touchdowns and zero interceptions. The most impressive part of his night though was that he got the ball out his hands quickly, and also continually got back up after taking hard hit after hard hit by the aggressive BYU defense. Wilson's game wasn't perfect however, as there were a couple balls that were nearly intercepted that I'm sure Travis wish he had back. That being said, Travis had another very impressive game.
Against a very good defensive front 7, Bubba Poole and Kelvin York ran for 122 yards and 4.8 yards per carry on Saturday. Poole had the longest run of the day on a 65 yard scamper up the sideline, but York had the run of the game, as he ran up the middle and blasted BYU corner Mike Hague on his run of 13 yards. It was a breath of fresh air to see York running with the violence that he ran with last year, and hopefully it's a sign of things to come. The combination of Poole and York could turn out to be very good as both compliment each other very well. Karl Williams was the only other back to see action on offense in the game, and on his only play of the game, he caught a 2 yard TD pass out of the backfield. All in all, it was a very good performance by the Ute runningbacks.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: B+
Dres Anderson is the real deal. The junior wide receiver had another fantastic game as he caught 8 balls for 141 yards, in what is now his third consecutive game with over 100 yards receiving. Anderson has quickly became the Utes go to receiver, and really stepped his game up with the injury of Kenneth Scott at the beginning of the year. Sean Fitzgerald and Jake Murphy were the other leading recievers for the Utes as they combined for 7 catches, and Anthony Denham also caught two passes, including his first career touchdown catch. The Utes wide receivers and tight ends had a very good night catching the ball, but where they failed to excel was in run blocking. The tight ends failed to consistently hold their blocks at the LOS and the wide receivers also weren't as good run blocking as they were the week before.
Offensive Line: B+
The offensive line continued their upward trend on Saturday, as the group paved the way for 129 yards rushing on 33 carries, and while the stat sheet will show they gave up one sack, they really didn't give up any as the lone sack falls on the shoulders Travis Wilson and not the offensive line. We talked all week about how the matchup between the offensive line and the BYU front 7 will decide the game, and that held true to our predictions. The offensive line was able to give Wilson enough time to make his throws and handled the aggresiveness of the BYU defense very well. Only negatives coming out of the game was the mental mistakes on penalties. 3 false starts and one hold prevented this group from having a perfect game.
Defensive Line: A
Coming in to the game, BYU was averaging 368 yards rushing in their prior two games, and the Ute defense held BYU to less than half of what they averaged as the Cougars were only able to rush for 183 yards. The defensive line consistently pushed around the BYU offensive line and made it near impossible for them to run inside the tackles. The defensive line was also able to get constant pressure on Taysom Hill, and Trevor Reilly and Seni Fauonuku were able to each get a sack of the BYU quarterback.
The Utes have found themselves a very good lineup of linebackers as Jason Whittingham, Jared Norris and Jacoby Hale all had fantastic games. The addition of Whittingham at MLB has proven to be a great move by the coaching staff
as he's able to stuff the run up the middle, but also has enough speed to cover the middle of the field on passing situations. Norris was the teams leading tackler on Saturday, while Hale was able to get 2 sacks on Taysom Hill in very critcal situations. Hale is extremely quick off of the edge and is a huge addition to the Linebacker group as long as he remains healthy. After a year where Utah struggled to find consistent play at Linebacker, it appears that those problems are a thing of the past.
Defensive Backs: B
After giving up over 400 yards passing the week before, the Ute secondary gave up 260 yards passing against BYU, but is that a factor of better play, or playing against a QB that shouldn't be a QB? The answer is both. There's no denying that Taysom Hill is not a good throwing quarterback, but the Utah secondary, especially the corners, played a much better game on Saturday. Keith McGill lined up one on one against All American candidate Cody Hoffman all game, and only gave up one big play, while also being very physical with him. Hoffman was still able to get 108 yard receiving, but considering the performance by the secondary the week before, that's not too bad. Justin Thomas also had a nice game as he had a couple of PBU's, and Davion Orphey also didn't make any glaring mistakes. I'm still not liking a lot of what I'm seeing from the safeties, as I'm seeing them out of position far too often. Now, Michael Walker made up for some of those mistakes by having 2-3 critical PBU's as well as the teams first interception of the year, and so he ended up having a very solid game. Eric Rowe still isn't living up to expectations when it comes to pass coverage, and it can't be overstated how boneheaded that personal foul penalty was late in the game. I know the refs were allowing other players to get away with a lot more than what Rowe did, but you just can't put yourself in that situation as that led to BYU getting their only TD of the game.
Special Teams: B
Andy Phillips and Tom Hackett were awesome once again, as Phillips kept his perfect streak in tact as he is now 7 of 7 on field goals this year, as well as 21 of 21 on PAT's. The kick-off and punt coverage were less than stellar however. Missed tackles led to a huge punt return by J.D. Falslev, as well as well as a kick-off return for a touchdown by Adam Hine, that was luckily called back due to a holding call. This was the first time this season that the two coverage teams struggled and so I'm confident that it'll be fixed, but it came very close to losing the game for Utah.
Position Grades: Utah vs BYU
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