Position Grades: Utah vs Washington State

It's a mixed bag on both sides of the ball after the loss to Washington State

Grades
A: Played well above expectations
B: Played above expectations
C: Played to expectations
D: Played below expectations
F: Played well below expectations

Quarterback: D-
It was a rough day for Travis Wilson in going 18 for 38 through the air for only 165 yards. His average yards per attempt was a dismal 4.3. By comparison, Washington State's Connor Halliday was at 6.8, which isn't very good either. Wilson was that bad. Most throws over 10 yards were off target and he ran the zone-read as ineffectively as he has at any point this season, accounting for only 7 yards on 10 carries. Wilson did keep his interception total for the season at zero, but he looked uncomfortable and rattled all night as Washington State was able to get pressure more often than Wilson would have liked. His receivers didn't do him any favors with multiple drops, including Dres Anderson's whiff on a well placed ball by Wilson that would have gone for a touchdown and possibly put the game away, but those accurate passes were few and far between. Big step down for Wilson on Saturday.

Running Backs: B-
It only took 3+ games for Kyle Whittingham and his staff to figure out what the rest of us knew: Devontae Booker is a much better back than Bubba Poole and will now be the starter going forward. Booker went for 178 yards on 24 carries, including a 76 yarder for a TD that put Utah up 21-0. He ran with speed, he ran with power, and he had good vision in hitting the right holes. You can take away the 76 yarder and Booker still had a very good day. More touches should be the formula from here on out. Still a liability in pass protection, but can't ignore what he does with the ball. Poole went for 9 yards on 5 carries with a long of 7 and has now lost his job. His vision seems to have regressed from last season and they're not throwing him the ball. No carries for Troy McCormick. He's sure fallen quickly.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: D
Dres Anderson had his worst game as a Ute notching an astonishing ZERO catches and droppping multiple passes, including a dropped ball late in the game that would be resulted in a touchdown and likely put the game on ice. Kenneth Scott came to play with 7 catches for 70 yards while Kaelin Clay had a breakout day with 5 for 65, although his fumble was very costly. 2 catches for 11 yards out of Westlee Tonga isn't enough considering he had two drops (although neither ball from Wilson was an easy catch). Tim Patrick had 2 for 23 including a key 17 yarder. I'm not sure what's happened to this receiving corps the last two weeks, but the lack of separation against Michigan (and a bit against Wazzu) along with the drops are a real concern. The step-up in competition could be to blame, but it's only going to get more difficult when they face even better athletes in the secondary against UCLA, USC, Stanford, and Oregon.

Offensive Line: D+
Maybe Utah needs to find a whole new line to pass block. Outside of Poutasi (and occasionally Dielman and Aiono), they just can't do it. Wilson wasn't being sacked, but he was constantly under pressure, which is unacceptable considering he was still getting the ball out pretty quickly after the snap. Receivers can't complete their routes before Wilson has to throw it. Like the receivers above, what's going to happen when they go against NFL caliber athletes next week? The run blocking was more consistent, and it has been all season long. They opened up holes big enough for Booker to get through and do his damage. It may be time to mix things up at the guard spots though. It's starting to get ugly.

Defensive Line: C
The Utes used a 3 down linemen look for much of the game, often going with all traditional ends and sliding Jason Fanaika into defensive tackle role. Fanaika responded with his best game as a Ute notching a fumble recovery and two sacks, including one where he overpowered a double team and drove them back until he took down Halliday. Nate Orchard mostly played defensive end, but didn't have his usual game. Had a few pressures, but no sacks and wasn't consistent enough although Utah lined him up in about 30 different spots on the right side of the line including once where he was about 5 yards outside of the left tackle. Hunter Dimick was fairly quiet on the night. It was hard for him and Nate to get into the backfield with a three man rush as both were often double-teamed.

Linebackers: B-
Jared Norris continues to play at a high level and was probably Utah's best defender on Saturday night, especially in the first half. He picked up 12 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and another sack to bring his total on the season to 3. With the Utes often using only 2 linebackers and 6 DBs, Norris had a lot of ground to cover and did an exceptional job. Gionni Paul wasn't far behind Norris in terms of his play. He's still a bit nicked up as evidenced by his hobbling off a couple of times, but had 6 tackles and a interception. Washington State was able to run the ball well in terms of yards per carry, but the defensive line wasn't helping with only three guys up there and a lot was asked of Norris and Paul.

Cornerbacks: C-
Not their best day, but not their worst. It could have been worse in total yards given up through the air if Connor Halliday wasn't so bad in the first 20 minutes, but he still threw for 400 yards. Eric Rowe was up and down, again. The pick six was nice in that he put himself in great position to pick it off and Halliday threw it right to where Rowe was. He did struggle in the second half though defending that inside wide receiver screen. Justin Thomas had a pretty good game and was probably the best corner out there. Wasn't perfect and did get beat a few times, but his physicality blew up a few plays for Wazzu. His fourth down deflection in the third quarter was thing of beauty. Maybe a step back for Dominique Hatfield on Saturday night. A pass interference call hurt Utah and he was beat on a few deep balls that he had not been beat on yet this year. Davion Orphey can't cover. He can tackle, but can't cover. That was evident again on Saturday. All of the corners looked gasses by the time the fourth quarter rolled around and that contributed to their lack of late game success.

Safeties: D
It hurts to lose an athlete like Tevin Carter back there and have to insert a true freshman in Marcus Williams. While Brian Blechen does a lot of things right and spent much of the game putting the entire secondary in the right spots, Carter's speed and athleticism make up for Blechen's lack of both. Without Carter, Connor Halliday and the Wazzu staff figured out what to do with the ball, and that was pick on the safeties, particularly Williams. Utah gave up four passing touchdowns. Hard not to put three of those (1 on Blechen and 2 on Williams) directly on the last line of defense. Utah's safety position is a mess right now, and we knew it would be if either Carter or Blechen was hurt at any point. Whether the issue is coaching, recruiting, or development, they just don't have the players back there to slow down these high-powered and athletic Pac 12 passing attacks.

Special Teams: B
Another punt return for touchdown by Kaelin Clay, and this might have been the most impressive as he took a hit, stayed on his feet, reversed field, and took it for six. Wazzu figured out that kicking to him is a mistake after that. Andy Phillips narrowly missed one in some tough wind, but responded to make 2 of 3 total. Tom Hackett had another good day averaging almost 46 yards per kick and putting 2 inside the 20. Not much given up to Wazzu in the return game.


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