The difference? Utah’s defense and running game are truly dominant this year.
While the passing game that produced only 62 yards because of a plethora of drops, bad passing and poor pass blocking, Utah’s running game dominated, especially late as Devontae Booker wore down one of the conference’s best rushing defenses to seal the win in double overtime.
Booker finished the game with 229 rushing yards, many of which involved breaking tackles, jumping over or through defenders and grinding his way through the secondary. The kid is a beast and is certainly getting noticed not only in the Pac-12, but nationally as well due to his bruising performances against UCLA and now OSU. How strong is this guy? 116 of his 229 rushing yards (50%) were gained in the 4th quarter and 2 overtimes. Of the Utes' possible 50 yards of offense in the double overtime stanzas, Booker gained 48 of them. 185 of his 229 yards (81%) were gained in the second half. Those types of numbers point to a strong offensive line blocking group and a special, running back who can grind it out and bust the big one when it finally appears.
As for the other side of the equation, Utah’s front seven are really good, bordering on special. Utah just continues to reload on the defensive line with perhaps one of their best groups in the past 10 years (certainly statistically). Mannion was under duress all night because of the likes of Dimick, Orchard and Pita Taumoepenu who continues to impress. The defense finished with just 5 sacks (a bit below their average), but they pressured Mannion all night while effectively stopping Oregon State’s rushing attack by limited them to just 119 on 46 attempts. The linebacking corps is perhaps the best we’ve seen in the Pac-12 era with Gionni Paul and Jared Norris leading the way. These guys are playmakers and difference makers, something that has been missing from this group for a long time.
Props to Utah for finding a way to get it done with a passing game that has been completely broken for the last four games. The drops are a huge problem and it's not just a Dres Anderson problem. Whether this is a mental issue or a coaching issue, it's got to get fixed.
While Utah fans can revel in an big road win, there are big questions that remain as the toughest part of the schedule looms:
- Who is your starting quarterback?
- How short is his leash?
- Who’s going to step up and lead this receiving corp?
- Can Utah’s defense keep every game this close?
The schedule gets even harder now as the Utes will likely face ranked opponents over the next 4 or 5 games with USC rolling into Utah’s annual blackout game a week from Saturday. If USC beats Colorado, you’re looking at one of the best college football matchups on next week’s slate.