By Steven Herrera
Travis Wilson had a terrible performance against USC. Four interceptions, including one that went for a touchdown, are the main reason behind Wilson’s grade. So maybe the last-ditch Hail Mary attempt that was intercepted should not count. The previous three interceptions and numerous other poor and/or forced passes were bad enough to warrant an F for the senior. Two touchdown passes save Wilson from failing, however. The first touchdown pass was an amazing throw, which showcased Wilson’s potential as a passer.
Running Back: A-
Devontae Booker only rushed the ball 14 times, somewhat amazingly, against the Trojans. Booker made the most of what was given to him, going for 62 yards while averaging 4.4 yards per carry. The senior running back also added six receptions for 42 yards, finishing as Utah’s second top receiver in the game.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: C
The only receivers to record at least one catch for the Utes were Britain Covey, Kenneth Scott, and Raelon Singleton. Bubba Poole could be included with this group, though his performance has little effect on the grade. Without Britain Covey’s seven receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns, this group would have received an F. The Utah receivers, outside of Covey, simply could not get any separation from the USC defensive backs all night. Tight end Harrison Handley had one catch for eight yards, while letting his other targets fall incomplete.
Offensive Line: D
The offensive line failed to dominate or establish any kind of physicality against a USC team that gave up over 200 yards on the ground the previous week. The Utah big men also struggled to provide protection for Travis Wilson, giving up multiple sacks and letting pressure get through much of the night. Losing to confusing blitz schemes and stunts are one thing, but losing straight up man-to-man is downright embarrassing.
Defensive Line: B-
The defensive line did better than the offensive line, but did not dominate the trenches like Utah fans are accustomed to. Especially considering how decimated the USC offensive line was for this game. The 116 yards given up on the ground is a bit misleading, as the Utes d-line only gave up 2.6 yards per attempt. The d-line also managed to come away with a few sacks but overall did not put enough pressure on Cody Kessler.
Gionni Paul deserves an A for his performance against the Trojans, despite a performance that had a couple mistakes. Paul was the only linebacker that did not look completely outmatched against USC and was making plays all over the field. Jason Whittingham and Uaea Masina, on the other hand, were vastly over matched and were liabilities on defense. Jared Norris’ presence on the field was sorely missed and his importance to the entire defense can’t be measured.
The cornerbacks struggled to contain JuJu Smith-Schuster, allowing the talented wide receiver to catch eight passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. Poor tackling and an inability to get off of blocks also play a huge role in the grade this group is receiving. Kessler managed to carve up the secondary for 264 yards and a completion rate of 75%.
Tevin Carter had a terrible game. He looked slow and was beat on multiple occasions in coverage. Carter can’t be 100% healthy right now. Marcus Williams played relatively well and had an impressive stop at the goal line. Williams has been consistent for the Utes defense and has cemented himself as a solid defender. Hansen had a missed tackle on a touchdown play and did not make an impact during his time at safety
Special Teams: A
Andy Phillips made a career long 53-yard field goal against USC and connected on all three PAT’s. Hackett had another solid performance, despite some breakdowns in the blocking in front of him. Most impressive was Utah’s tackling on kickoffs and punts. The Utes contained USC’s explosive athletes and improved from last week’s performance against ASU.
Offensive Coaching: D-
Only rushing Booker 14 times against a weak USC defense is unacceptable. Despite having to play catch up after falling behind by a sizeable margin, the offensive coaching staff needed to figure out a way to get their best player the ball. Instead of letting Booker convert on fourth and short, something Booker has done well throughout the season, the coaches dialed up a pass play that ended up being intercepted for a touchdown.
Defensive Coaching: D
Utah’s zone defense was absolutely carved up by Cody Kessler. The coaches also didn’t have an answer for JuJu Smith-Schuster, failing to make the right adjustments to stop the talented wide receiver.