Well....that was fun. Utah did what they had to do (and then some) against Fresno State with a thorough and complete whooping of the Bulldogs in a game that was never as close as they final score might indicate. This is easily Utah's most complete performance since the upset of Stanford last season, and one of the best showings since I've started covering the team in 2010.
It took four drives (two by each team) and this thing was over, and that's what good teams do. They take a highly inferior opponent (Fresno is much worse than any of us anticipated) and blow them off the field early.
Everything worked today for the Utes. The offense was clicking on all cylinders, as they scored on their first three drives and posted EIGHT touchdowns with ease. The defense held Fresno State to three and out and their first FIVE possessions. I'm not sure which one of those is more impressive.
At no point did Utah feel threatened today. The Bulldogs made an offensive adjustment in the second quarter with a new quarterback and more designed quarterback runs. It worked for a series before a 4th down stop. Then Sitake made his own adjustments and shut down the mobility of Fresno quarterback Brian Connette and only a blow coverage that gave up a 40 yard pass that ultimately led to a touchdown kept the Utah D from posting a shutout in the first half.
It's hard to pick apart Travis Wilson's game after a win like that. He made some great throws and great reads in the run game that showed his command of the offense and understanding of what is in front of him is vastly improved over last season. The 38 yard touchdown pass to Dres in the first quarter was probably the best ball he's thrown in his time at Utah. A few minor mistakes with accuracy by Wilson can be corrected and shouldn't take away from a game in which he threw 5 touchdown passes on 11 completions. Those are video game numbers and Travis Wilson may have arrived as 'the guy' Ute fans have been waiting for.
Defensively, what a turn-around from week 1. Yes, they gave up twice as many points, but three of those touchdowns were against second teamers or worse out there. The front line? They shut us up after the complaints in week 1.
The defensive line held Fresno State's run game in check outside of a couple scampers by Fresno State quarterbacks. Great games on the line from Hunter Dimick (2 sacks), Filipo Mokofisi (1 sack, 1 tackle for loss), Clint Shepard and Jason Fanaika. Eric Rowe was tested a lot by an all american caliber receiver and held his own, but was a stud in run support grabbing 11 tackles. Nate Orchard's new role as a linebacker was quite impressive. He didn't have the stat line to back it up, but his presence let everyone around him make plays. Justin Thomas and Domonique Hatfield showed just how much of an upgrade they are over Davion Oprhey and Wykie Freeman. That duo, along with Rowe, could be pretty good in a couple of weeks if they can stay healthy and keep progressing. The 3-3-5 defense Utah ran for most of the game was perfect in scheme and execution.
So, where are we now? It's week 2 and Utah had a bounce-back performance that has to give everyone a lot of optimism. They improved in EVERY area of the game last week...and that's exactly what you want out of your team. Get better each week and keep winning. You really couldn't have drawn it up any better. Now with a bye week before heading to the big house to face a Michigan team that was just shutout for the first time in 30 years followed by a game against a Washington State that is 0-2, having lost to two average or worse opponents, and Utah has to be looking at an undefeated September that is not only a possibility, but should be expected at this point.
With the struggles we've seen out of Pac 12 schools early to start the year (I'm looking at you UCLA, Colorado, and Oregon State), things don't look as daunting as they once did. Is a Pac 12 South title realistic? Probably not, but most didn't even consider it a possibility at the start of the season. The door should at least be cracked open a little bit now. If Utah can play like they did against Fresno State week in and week out, they should be able to push that door wide open.
Utes Hammer Fresno State
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