By Steven Herrera
With a 34-23 victory over the Washington Huskies in the Seattle rain, the Utah Utes have beaten every team in the Pac-12 since joining the conference. More importantly, Utah improved to 8-1 on the season and maintained control of the south division. Though the score wasn’t as close as most expected, the game was in large part a defensive struggle. While neither defense was completely dominant, there were a combined two interceptions and seven fumbles, with five of them being lost by the offense.
The Utah offense left a lot to be desired against the Huskies. Despite the offense coming out of the gate mainly passing the ball, Wilson finished the game with only 155 yards passing, completing 12 of 25 attempts. Wilson didn’t get much help from his receivers or tight ends outside of Britain Covey (who else?). Passes fell incomplete after hitting targets in the hands while other passes hit the ground after the receivers failed to make an adjustment on their route. The worst came on a deep pass to Caleb Repp that was intercepted by the Huskies. Repp must have never seen the ball as it seemed like the tight end wasn’t aware it was coming his way.
Devontae Booker had another Devontae Booker game. Finishing the game with 150 yards rushing and one touchdown, Booker punished the Husky defense early in the game and took advantage in the fourth quarter when fatigue settled in. Booker, like many times this season, broke out into the open field and was brought down by the last possible man, usually on a shoestring tackle. Booker’s ability to dish out and absorb hits while never dropping off at any point throughout the game continues to be amazing to watch. The only glitch in Booker’s performance against Washington was a costly fumble.
Speaking of fumbles, Utah’s defense recovered three out of five Washington fumbles. It looked like Utah was going to blow out the Huskies off the strength of the defense and the turnovers they created. Jared Norris returned to form and wrecked havoc, blowing up plays for no gains or a loss and forcing fumbles. Not to be outdone by his partner, Gionni Paul was making plays all over the field (shocker, shocker), intercepting a perfectly read and played slant pass and almost taking it to the house. Paul would make the most of his second opportunity, scooping up a fumble and taking it 54 yards for a touchdown. There is no question that the duo are the most important players on the field for Utah when the defense lines up.
As important as Norris and Paul were, Chase Hansen had an equally impressive performance. In his first start at safety, Hansen had 11 total tackles, with one forced fumble and one pass break up. While Hansen bit hard on some play action passes, it has become clear that he can become a star for Utah on the defensive side of the ball. As heartbreaking and unfortunate as his injury on the last play of the game was, the future is bright for Hansen.
The special teams unit wasn’t dominate but played well given the conditions and outside of a missed field goal. Phillips recovered after missing his first kick and put two through the uprights with a long of 43 yards. The best part of the special teams was Covey having an opportunity to return some kicks. Covey is so fun to watch and usually made multiple defenders miss before being tackled by a Utah player.
Bottom line, Utah got it done again, as it has all season. Only three games remain in the regular season, Utah fans. Three games Utah will have a great chance of winning. Let the fun commence.
Kylie Fitts has been huge for Utah and deserves credit for his role in the defense’s success. Fitts sealed the game on sack/fumble on Browning late in the fourth.
Utah has to clean up the penalties. Late hit penalties against Boobie Hobbs and Pita T were costly and offside penalties on the defense were senseless.
Marcus Williams looked bad. The sophomore safety whiffed horribly on a few plays and cost Utah points. After starting off the season on fire, Williams has come back to Earth.