Wilson managed his best game as a Ute. Didn't need to be spectacular, just consistent, make plays, and not turn the ball over, and that's what he did. 23 of 34 for 241 yards and 2 touchdowns. More importantly, only 1 interception and 1 sack taken. Travis also picked up 43 yards on the ground on 8 carries, helping move the chains and pickup first downs. It was the most important game of his career and we can now definitively say that Travis Wilson has arrived.
Running Back- A-
James Poole pulled off easily his best game as a Ute, not just from a statistical standpoint, but in overal effectiveness, making the Stanford defenders look silly at times. 111 yards on the ground, and another 75 throw the air on 7 catches had Poole doing things we haven't seen out of a running back since John White in 2011. Lucky Radley was also very effective 31 yards on 4 carries, adding a bit of speed that Stanford couldn't handle. Credit Karl Williams for a great game blocking as well as catching the ball out of the backfield.
Wide Receiver- B-
If Dres Anderson isn't at least a second team all Pac 12 receiver, then I'm not sure what else he has to do. 4 catches for 82 yards including the 51 yard touchdown catch where he outmuscled the DB to get back to the ball and then raced into the end zone. Throw in his 3 yard touchdown run and he's turned into a very dangerous weapon. Neither Sean Fitzgerald nor Anthony Denham did much catching the ball, but both were tremendous in the blocking game, making things easier for ball catchers to get yards after the catch and keeping would be tacklers off of Poole. Not having the tight ends had no impact on the receiving corps.
Offensive Line- A-
The interior three were tremendous, especially Salt and Jones, consistently owning the stout Stanford front 7. Poutasi had a few issues with Gardner and Murphy, but who doesn't? It might have been his best game so far today, and maybe a sign that he's getting healthier. Aiono was much better than the week before against UCLA. If Utah's line plays like this every week, they'll win 8 games or more.
Defensive Line- B
NATE! NATE! NATE! NATE! NATE! NATE! NATE! NATE! NATE! NATE!
NATE! NATE! NATE! NATE! NATE! NATE! NATE! NATE! NATE! NATE! 2 sacks. 2 forced fumbles. Consistently in the backfield coming off the edge as well as playing a lot of outside linebacker. No one pulls off the strip and sack better than Nate Orchard. Not far behind Nate was Trevor Reilly, who led the team with 7 tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery, and it seemed like in on every play. Tenny Palepoi clogged lanes up the middle in the run game, and was in the backfield quite a bit on passing plays, while, on second look, LT Tuipulotu was very good. If Utah can get play out of LT like that every week, this defensive line will be dominant.
Jason Whittingham is Utah's most valuable defensive player. How do I know? After he left the game with an injury in the fourth quarter, Stanford put together a touchdown drive and then drove down inside of the 10 yard line with ease before stalling. Whittingham was everywhere again on Saturday, stopping the run and not allowing anything over the middle in the passing game. Jared Norris was equally as good. Neither filled the stat sheet with just 11 combined tackles, but their all around play was more than impressive.
Suddenly Keith McGill looks like an all conference corner. The strides in McGill's game have been stunning as you rarely heard his name on Saturday. Why? He shut down his opposing receivers. Had McGill been on Cajuste on the late touchdown catch instead of the much shorter Justin Thomas, who knows how that play goes? Davion Orphey had a tough day. He was picked on early, and whenever Kevin Hogan was completing balls, it seemed like Orphey was the corner in coverage. Mike Honeycutt was solid and Justin Thomas was pretty good in increased reps this week.
Michael Walker appears to have passed Eric Rowe as the team's top safety. He's been more consistent and made more big plays, and the same thing happened on Saturday. 6 tackles and 1 pass breakup for Walker, with neither him nor Rowe allowing Stanford to get much over the top throughout. Both were solid in run support, helping out the front seven.
Special Teams- C+
Andy Phillips is looking like the best kicker in the country, nailing all three PATs and two more big kicks, including a 48 yarder. Tom Hackett pinned Stanford inside the 20 three times on five punts, including a 57 yarder. Geoff Norwood was solid in the punt return game. Utah did allow the 100 yard kickoff return to Ty Montgomery and a pooch kick that Montgomery was still able to get out to the 45.
Position Grades: Utah vs Stanford
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