Utes Do Just Enough to Knock Off USC

The cardiac Utes win a thriller and reinforce that they're for real in 2014

Another week. Another win. Is there any question about who the Utes are after 7 games into the 2014 season. They are a tough, rugged, grind-it-out, gut-checked and iron forged group that just doesn’t quit. Do they win pretty? Well winning is always pretty, but “UGLY” is the word of the day when describing what the Utes are doing to their Pac-12 opponents and the way Utes force their opponents to play.

Kalani Sitake’s defense if flat-out, one of the top defenses in the country. While “Sack Lake City” was limited to just 2 on the night, a season low for this group, they limited USC on the group to just 100 yards (net) on the ground. USC’s Buck Allen was limited all night rushing for 101 yards on 27 attempts with a long of just 13. That’s pretty impressive considering the immense size and talent on USC’s line. Hunter Dimick and Nate Orchard took turns taking on USC’s massive 6’9, 350 pound Zach Banner with limited success. Overall, Utah’s sack attack was limited by a five star effort by a five star offensive line. Utah wasn’t as fast off the ball as we’ve seen in previous weeks, and the bull rush wasn’t a viable option, but overall, they did enough. The best play of the game for Orchard has to be USC’s attempt on fourth and 2 with just over two minutes to play. Nate’s maximum effort on Nelson Agholor to push him outside was the difference needed to force Agholor to step out of bounds, giving the Ute’s offense a chance to finish the game for the win.

Utah’s linebacking corps had a decent game as well with Jason Fanaika delivering a game changing interception that which turned the tide, leading to Devontae Booker’s 24 yard TD run putting the Utes up 17 to 14. Fanaika had his best game as a Ute and made a huge impact with 6 tackles along with 1.5 tackles for loss. Spectacular all around play, including a touchdown saving tackle by Norris in the third quarter.

Utah’s secondary had its struggles and that’s what we expected, but they did enough, and that's really the mark of this team. Doing enough to get the win.

As for Utah’s offense, they were better than expected. Travis Wilson looked like the quarterback we’ve been waiting to see all season long. His poise was there, his feet were less happy and for the most part his accuracy was there as he passed for 194 on 18 of 32 attempts. Utah’s offense line gave Wilson the time he needed on designed rollouts and actually provided a pocket that Travis could operate in. Wilson is the only FBS quarterback without an interception by the way. Yes, the only one after throwing about 200 last year. The most impressive part of Wilson's game was his poise on the final drive. Completing 5 of 8 balls, including the final touchdown to Kaelin Clay with 8 seconds to go. HIs biggest play? The 18 yard scamper to get the ball down the 1 yard line. Calm. Cool. Collected, and most important, confident. When Wilson is confident, he can be an upper level Pac 12 quarterback. Hopefully the confidence sticks for the remainder of the season. If it does, the Utes will keep winning.

Booker was Booker in the second half. The fumbles are a concern and need to be cleaned up, but his runs on the final drive were crucial in opening up the throw game. He did enough.

The offensive line? Argubny their best performance of the season against a very good USC front seven. Nothing great. Everything solid, even the pass protection. Hiva Lutui's play in place of an injured Siaosi Aiono was tremendous. They did enough.

The wide receivers had a nice bounce-back game. No big plays and a few drops, but were more consistent than in weeks past. They did enough.

In the end, it’s clear that Kyle Whittingham’s squad doesn’t quit and the key for this team is to keep each game within it’s grasp. USC never lead for by more than 4 points. Utah isn't letting games get away. They keep it close. If Utah can keep the game within reach, they have the mentality needed to pull it out in the end. They continue to do enough.

While they haven't put together a complete game on both sides of the ball in Pac 12 play yet, they're doing enough to win each week, and in college football, just enough is sometimes all it takes.

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