The Utes followed up their 20-13 Holy War win over rival BYU with a tough loss to the 12th-ranked Bruins at home. Although Utah never played themselves out of the game according to the scoreboard, their play on the field prevented them from ever having a chance to win. There are some good things to take from the loss, things that should make all Ute fans optimistic, but as the schedule continues to increase in difficulty it will get harder and harder for Utah to become bowl eligible with each passing week.
Travis Wilson had his worst performance turnover-wise of his young career tossing six picks to the Bruins. Say what you will about whose fault they were, at the end of the day he threw the balls that ended up in the hands of the other team and they cost the Utes the game. He did throw for 288 yards and 2 TD's, both impressive numbers, but 50% completion (22/44) with all of those INT's and an inability to complete a pass downfield all game long earn him a failing grade.
Running Backs: C-
The running back by committee experiment needs to end. Utah's lack of consistency at the tailback position has handicapped their run game and limited their offensive production. James Poole played the entire first half but was only given 5 total carries (5.2 YPC avg). He looked good but was pulled before he was given enough opportunities to make an impact. York took over in the 3rd and was productive as well going 13 carries for 51 yards but was replaced in the 4th quarter by Lucky Radley. I understand the coaches want to find a 'hot hand' but if nobody is given a chance to get hot all they're going to get is mediocre rushing.
Receivers and Tight Ends: C+
Dres had a fantastic individual effort on his 54-yard catch and run score. He went over the century mark once again and continued to show why coach Aaron Roderick called him the best wide receiver he's ever coached. Outside of Dres the receivers struggled to get open and just about all of them had at least one drop. Jake Murphy was once again under-utilized. The lack of a presence from the tight end position has put more attention on the wide-outs and will only get worse if the Utes can't turn the tight ends into weapons.
Offensive Line: C-
Jeremiah Poutasi has probably been the biggest disappointment on this team through the first 5 games. He is constantly out of position, he's getting beat with speed rushers off the edge, and has been so bad at times that he's struggled to block just about anybody one-on-one. The middle of the line played well creating a decent rush attack against a very good Bruin front seven, but in the pass game Poutasi and Siaosi Aiono struggled to hold the edges and as a result Wilson was sacked 3 times and was pressured into poor reads and throws on a handful of others. What was a promising group before the year began has been anything but thus far.
Defensive Line: B
The defensive line did a great job of eating up blockers and freeing up the linebackers to make tackles, as well as get pressure on blitzes. None of Utah's 3 sacks came from a defensive lineman, but because they were able to free those linebackers up, they deserve a lot of credit on those sacks. They also held UCLA to 3.5 yards per carry on the ground, who was averaging close to 6 yard per carry coming in to the game. The run defense wasn't perfect, but the D Line did their job a plugging up holes and getting enough pressure to make Hundley not as effective as he had been in previous games.
I may get flamed for this grade, but I thought the linebackers were absolutely fantastic on Thursday night, and sans a couple of plays, played absolutely lights out. The Utes have found themselves a pretty good starting lineup of linebackers with Jacoby Hale, Jared Norris and Jason Whittingham. All 3 linebackers had a fantastic night, although Hale only played one half and finshed with one tackle and one sack. Whittingham and Norris on the night combined for 22 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. That is some fantastic production from two redshirt sophomores and is a welcome addition after a year of very poor linebacker play. Now, the LB's at time still showed to have a weakness at covering the edge, but that is something they are improving at each week. Overall, it was a fantastic game for them.
Defensive Backs: B-
The Utah secondary has struggled this season thus far at adequately covering opposing receivers, and on a night where they were much better at doing just that, a new problem arose for them. Tackling. There were far too many broken tackles in the secondary, and many of them just looked like there was very little effort given at all. Now, Brett Hundley only threw for 218 yards, which is milestones better than what they had given up in previous games, and Keith McGill also had a standout performance. McGill obviously had the big play with the pick 6 of Hundley, but his coverage of Shaq Evans was even more impressive than that big play. McGill played terrific coverage all night limited Evans to 1 catch the entire night. The Ute secondary has desperately needed somebody to step up this season, and McGill stepped up in a big way on Thursday night. His continued improvement will be huge for this Utah defense, as well as his draft stock as scouts just drool over his blend of size and speed.
Special Teams: B+
Andy Phillips remains perfect on his field goals, although he was about half an inch from missing his last one, and also nails a perfect onsides kick...again. The play by Trevor Reilly to knock the ball out of Shaq Evan's hands on the onsides kick was a thing of beauty, and Sean Fitzgerald was right there to land on top of it. We also saw that Geoff Norwood has some big play ability in the punt return game. He had a 50+ yard punt return that was negated by a block in the back, which was completely unnecessary as the defender wasn't close to Norwood, and he also had a couple other nice punt returns. Kickoff coverage was a bit shaky at times, and Tom Hackett didn't have his best game punting the ball. Overall, another solid game for the Utah special teams unit.
Position Grades: UCLA at Utah
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