By Cody Harris
Bouncing back after his worst game of the year last week, Travis was back to form against the Sun Devils connecting on 72% of his passes for 297 yards and 2 TD’s. With ASU’s stout run defense the game plan was clearly to throw the ball, Travis rose to the occasion and executed this game plan very well, distributing the ball to 9 different players, 4 of which had a completion of 20+ yards. His maturity as a QB was on full display as Travis repeatedly made the right read in the face of blitz after blitz, something he had struggled with greatly in previous seasons. It is important to note the confidence and growth of Travis’ play, his body language is different and he has EARNED the trust of his coaches.
Running Back: B+
Devontae Booker definitely had a difficult time running the ball for the majority of the game, he was stuffed repeatedly and mostly held to short gains; however he did exactly what was asked of him. With the game plan being to rely on the pass, Booker was asked to demonstrate his underrated blocking skills. Though he was responsible for giving up a sack, he showed his willingness to do whatever is best for the team and blocked well for Travis. ASU brought 6 guys the majority of the game and Booker held his own. He still of course had is fingerprint on this game as well scoring twice and amassing 132 total yards (14 receiving, 118 rush) with an impressive 62 yd run to seal the game for the Utes.
Wide Recievers/TE’s: B
Kenneth Scott, had an excellent game tonight leading the receivers in yards and spectacular 1 handed catches! (5 rec, 116 yds, 1 TD) 9 different players caught passes; Scott, Covey, and Handley each had 5 receptions, and we finally saw some game-time promise from Tyrone Smith who ended the game with 3 catches for 50 yards. The receiving core showed the ability to make contested catches and get open in space. The one knock I would have on the group is the inability to break tackles and gain more yards after catching the ball. With as many screen, sweep, and slant plays as Utah has run in the past, the inability (besides Booker and Covey) to breakaway is something that needs to be worked on. With promising starting TE Siale Fakailoatonga now out for the year, it was good to see the depth at TE come in with strong play.
Offensive Line: B-
The big boys upfront struggled to open up lanes all night for Booker, which is somewhat understandable considering the amount of blitzing the Sun Devils did. Blitz pressure was brought nearly every single play and by the games end, the line had given up 5 sacks. The twist stunts brought up the middle were especially effective at confusing the interior lineman, while the tackles relied on Booker to help on the outside rushes. All that being said, with the sheer amount of blitzes, Travis still had time most of the time; and the line held long enough to help the Utes offense put up 34 points and get the win.
Defensive Line: A++ (a plus for the starters and a plus for the back-ups)
There isn’t much to be said about the performance of the defensive line of the Utes other than it was masterful. Anytime a defensive line can hold an opponent to just 15 yards rushing, sack the QB 5 times, and completely control the line of scrimmage the way they did; it’s special! The defensive front was constantly in the backfield as they pushed the ASU offensive line backward and they were exceptionally disciplined maintaining their individual gaps. In re-watching the game it stood out just how great this line is at getting their arms out and hand on the runner while being engaged by the blocker, either tackling them or just simply slowing them up until the next defender got there. From backup to starter their really is no difference, they were exceptional as the Utes once again really only utilized their front 4, which leads one to believe they are the best defensive line in the country.
It was much of the same as it has been this season as Norris and Paul were all over the field, while Whittingham is just “there.” Paul and Norris played solid, sound, disciplined football. If/when a runner got through the defensive line, Paul was there waiting . When the Sun Devils tried to run it outside Norris was there, great sideline-to-sideline play throughout the night. In the past Bercovici has been a capable runner when a play breaks down, but he really had nowhere to during this game
Bercovici threw the ball 42 times and completed just 20 of those throws for 242 yards and an INT. Outside of Devin Lucien the Sun Devil receivers were kept relatively in check on the night. I don’t know that I would say that Domo struggled last night as much as I think he gambled a lot, jumping routes to try and make a play. Justin Thomas on the other hand really played outstanding showing that he could run stride for stride with ASU. Porter was solid, and of course Butler-Byrd came up with the INT. Luckily for the Utes there were a few dropped passes that could’ve gone for big yards (especially in second to last drive for ASU).
Tevin Carter and Marcus Williams were very good, I don’t believe they got beat deep even once on Saturday night. Marcus seems to get better each game and was especially effective with deep ball support making sure that nobody got past him. While Tevin spent a decent portion of the night in run support, he was very quick to get out on the edge to help with tackles and came up with the fumble at the critical time in the game.
Special Teams: C
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… The fundamentals of kick coverage were sorely lacking in the first half of the game, poor tackling, poor angles, and poor lane control, which resulted in 10 points for ASU. Then the Utes try and pull off some magic, which instead resulted in 2 points for the other team. (If it had worked, it was wide open). But as bad as that was, Hackett and Automatic Andy were great, especially Hackett. Andy was 100% and Hackett pinned ASU inside the 20 5 times, giving the Utes defense all the field necessary to stop the Sun Devils.
Offensive Coaching: B+
With a strength against strength matchup of Booker vs The ASU run defense, the game-plan was to put the ball and trust in Travis Wilson’s hands. Some might say that was risky, but this year is a different story and it paid off. With ASU known as a blitz happy defense that has really hurt the Utes in the past few seasons, Travis was well prepared to read the blitz and get the ball out. The Utes still maintained their conservative nature, but were willing to take shots down field. Last year against ASU they were hyper-conservative, this year they learned from their mistakes.
Defensive Coaching: A+
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The game plan was great and it was executed to near perfection. The reason this is an A+ though is because of how well coached and prepared this defense is. They are sound in coverage, gap control, positioning, and in assignment. The way this defense played the really should be seen as a machine, with each part doing its job and rarely misfiring. It was a collective effort by the DB’s, LB’s, D-line, and the rotation working together and it resulted in, 15 rushing yards, 2 turnovers, 5 sacks, just 257 total yards of offense and ZERO touchdowns.