Position Grades: Utah at UCLA

The win in the Rose Bowl gives the Utes a lot of high marks

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

Quarterbacks: B
Travis Wilson didn't get much of a chance this game, in terms of series or play calls (which I found interesting), so in came Kendal Thompson and he didn't disappoint. Thompson had a good game. Not great but good, in leading the Utes to the upset. He was 10 of 13 passing and had two drops that didn't help his cause. Didn't make any poor decisions, although the ball to Dres for the touchdown was somewhat questionable and not a good throw as it was into double coverage and a mile in the air. Dres just made a ridiculous play in outworking the DBs. Thompson was effective on the ground in keeping the UCLA defense on their heels all game. He was elusive and made plays when he had to. Is going to have to throw it down the field more at some point this season, but for his first extensive action, not a bad performance. Best thing Thompson did all night? Key throws and scrambles to keep the chains moving when the Utes were in third and long.

Running Back: A
Any questions remaining about who the best back is? Devonate Booker not only grabbed the position, but strangled the thing and put it in his back pocket. The bruising runner went for over 150 yards against a fairly stout UCLA defense and was pretty much all of Utah's offense outside of Thompson running here and there. The thing Booker did best was knowing where he was supposed to go, and hitting that spot. He did bounce a few balls, but only when he absolutely had to. Booker understood that in a game like this, two yards can be very valuable instead of losing one. Still issues in pass protection out of Booker, but they were better than the previous week.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: C
What's with the drops again? I thought this had been fixed. A week after the issue popped up again, they continued this week with multiple drops out of the receivers including a couple from the sure-handed Kenneth Scott. Scott's drop on he second play of the game came on a perfect ball from Wilson. If he had held on, an 80 yard TD was a real possibility. Drops by Clay have been an issue the last two weeks, although no one has ever said that he had great hands. Dres didn't get a ton of balls, but had what may end up being their catch of the year on the deep ball from Thompson for a touchdown. Tonga had a drop early on, but it looked like he was being held. The group did do a very good job of blocking. You didn't see many UCLA corners making tackles on Thompson and Booker.

Offensive Line: B-
The pass protection again wasn't great, but it wasn't as noticeable with Thompson's ability to scramble negating four or fives pass rushes from the Bruins that would have been sacks on Wilson. The run blocking on the other hand? Pretty good. Poutasi had a good game in the run department and Siaosi Aiono was a stud. J.J. Dielman played well and Uhatafe looked very good in significant action. The rotation of Salt and Asiata at the right guard spot worked and kept both fresh. As a whole, the line definitely stepped up and played arguably their best game of the season. Still want to see more improvement, but got the job done.

Defensive Line: A
10 sacks. Let that sink in for a minute. Utah had TEN sacks. Nate Orchard made Malcolm Bunche look like a junior high tackle in picking up 4 alone. Bunche couldn't handle Orchard's speed or moves (he threw out some ridiculous moves) and Hundley was constantly under attack. Hunter Dimick was almost as good despite notching 'only' 2 sacks. He setup a ton of plays that other guys ended up benefitting from. Lowell Lotulelei had his breakout game and may have locked down a starting spot the rest of the season. Still need to be in better shape, but he's was very good in slowing the run and eating up blockers. Sese Ianu was generally Lotulelei's counterpart inside and had himself the best game of his career, consistently hodling his spot. The most important thing the line did when the Bruins dropped back to pass was play assignment sound football. They held their gaps, which negated Hundley's ability to run when the pocket collapsed.

Linebackers: B-
Jared Norris had himself one hell of a game, again. If he's not at least a second team All Pac 12 linebacker this season, the voting process needs to be looked at again. Paul was effective and played well with a couple of big tackles. Had a huge one on a carry by UCLA RB Nate Starks that effectively shutdown a UCLA drive early in the second half. UCLA did run the ball effectively at times, but the linebackers more than did their jobs with plenty of stunts that left Hundley guessing as to what they were going to do pre-snap.

Cornerbacks: B
UCLA tried to pass it, but didn't because of the large number of sacks. Some were coverage sacks, but most were due to Nate and Dimick getting in Hundley's face quickly. Thomas had a pick off of a deflected ball that showed great concentration. It was called back because of a questionable call, but an impressive pick nonetheless. Thomas shutdown Thomas Duarte throughout the game (zero catches) in a matchup where he was guarding a guy that is about 8 inches taller. Eric Rowe was up and down. Had a few good plays, but the late touchdown was all on him, and the exact same play as the previous snap where he was beat both times (Rowe got away with a hold on the first one). Hatfield bounced back after a rough second half against Wazzu with another very good performance, although the 90+ yard touchdown was mostly his fault due to some confusion and losing his assignment. The corners covered as long as they needed to for most of the game and complimented the front 7 well.

Safeties: B
Tevin Carter showed why he's so valuable with his early game TFL and pick 6. Once he went out, things weren't as smooth in the secondary, but Andre Godfrey still had a pretty good game in his first significant action. Can put some responsibility on the long touchdown on him, but mostly on Hatfield. He was effective in getting into the backfield as well when they brought him on the blitz. Blechen's name wasn't called a ton, but he did a good job of quarterbacking the secondary and making sure everyone was in the right spot...again.

Special Teams: B+
Hackett was a an absolute gangster again with his punting as the Bruins started inside their own 20 time and time again. He has to be the leader for the Ray Guy Award right now. Phillips was 3 for 3, including the game winner, but the second kick he made from 45 yards out was probably the most clutch kick of his career. Also executed an on-side kick to perfection. Clay was held in check, but the Utes balanced it out by keeping Ishmael Adams from breaking anything outside of a return that was called back due to a penalty.

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