By Cody Harris
This was one for the ages, as close to a perfect game from the Utes as anyone has ever seen. The Utes outcoached, outworked, and absolutely outplayed the Ducks in Eugene on Saturday night, getting easily their best win since joining the PAC-12. Lets break down what was possibly the most entertaining game in Utes history.
We know now that this game plan was an entire offseason in the making as coach Whittingham has stated that he purposefully kept his team vanilla the previous 3 weeks. The game plan was then executed to perfection, opening up the offense the same way they did against Colorado St at the end of last year. The Utes exposed the weakness of this Oregon team, the defense; especially the weak secondary to the tune of 257 yards through the air for 5 passing TD’s, and 273 yards on the ground for 2 rushing TD’s. A near perfect balance of passing and running, the ducks defense never had a chance. The offense as a whole seemed to play loose, confident, and as if they were having the time of their lives while amassing 530 yards, 24 first downs and scoring 7 TD’s.
Travis Wilson looked like a 4-year starter should, confident, smart, and razor sharp in his execution of the offense. He made the right reads, manipulated the safeties and threw his receivers open, while being equally effective with his feet (1 rushing TD), despite his injured shoulder slowing him down. Each of his 4 passing TD’s were placed nicely where only his receivers could get them, most impressively was the dime he dropped to Caleb Repp for his first catch and TD as a Ute.
Devontae Booker was equally impressive showcasing all of his talents while doing exactly as was asked of him. Booker averaged 4.4 yards per carry, for 98 yards, had a touchdown reception of 23 yards, and then threw a perfect 25 yard left handed pass to Britain Covey for a score. Ironically and unfortunately he was held out of the endzone on the ground for what would have been the total trifecta.
Maybe most importantly, this game belonged to the Utes wideouts, showing that when given the chance they are talented enough to make teams pay. Kenneth Scott finally lived up to what Utes fans have been waiting for, using his strength and size to garner 6 receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown. Covey did what Covey does; which is make the defenders attempting to cover him miss. Ute fans were introduced to true freshman TE Caleb Repp who apparently just scores touchdowns. At 6’4 202 lbs this 18 year old demonstrated the poise and athleticism of an upperclassman as he got his first college action against the Ducks. The emergence of the wide receivers will be huge for the Utes as they go forward as they were clearly seen as a giant question mark coming into the season.
On the Defensive side of the ball it was almost the status quo for Utah as they continued to create turnovers and play tough against the run. They held Royce Freeman to just 77 yards well below his game average of 124 yards. This seemed to be the focus of the defense, which then forced the Ducks to throw the ball. Oregon managed just 178 yards and 2 scores through the air, much of which came in garbage time. More throws meant more opportunities for interceptions by the Utes talented secondary, which they capitalized on. Mr. I-N-T Marcus Williams was gifted his 3rd interception of the young season due to the heavy QB pressure of the strong defensive line. Dominique Hatfield who secured his starting spot once again, made an impressive momentum killing endzone interception that was crucial to keeping the ducks down and the momentum in the Utes favor. Finally the Utes started blitzing again, which gave the Utes a total of 5 sacks and contributed to 3 turnovers. The Utes looked very strong in their rush, pushing the offensive line of the Ducks backward with relative ease causing a lot rash decisions by the opposing Qb’s.
Special teams; was in fact “worth the price of admission” as one of the broadcasters quoted the opposing coach. Last week against Fresno we saw once again what has become a staple for Coach Whitt and the Utes, strong special teams in all facets. Their talent was on FULL display this week against Oregon; from Hackett pinning the ducks inside the 5 yard line and his fake punt for an incredible first down, to Phillips hitting 100% of his field goals, to then fooling everyone on the planet on Boobie Hobb’s punt return for a score; it was sensational.
What more can be said about this game; it was all Utah as they completely dominated in every aspect of the game. Most surprising about this one, was Coach Whitt’s approach as he completely opened the offense and allowed them to showcase their talent to the entire country on the road against one of the Nations best programs. Coach Whittingham clearly wanted to make a statement to the Pac-12 and all of college football. The nation is now talking about the Utes as a possible championship contender, the shots have been fired and now the Utes will have the target on their back; it will now be up to the Utes to show that this wasn’t a fluke and they truly belong in that conversation.