By Steven Herrera
Without Devontae Booker, the Utah offense failed to score a touchdown against UCLA leading to a 17-9 defeat. The Utes looked lethargic and played without the confidence of a team still in the running for the Pac-12 south title. The game never felt as close as the scoreboard indicates as a lackluster offense and a slow start by the defense doomed Utah against the Bruins. Additionally, after starting the season relatively healthy, injuries are starting to hurt Utah as Britain Covey, Tevin Carter, and Reggie Porter got hurt against UCLA.
The offense moved the ball down the field and got within scoring position on multiple occasions but couldn’t finish with touchdowns. The Joe Williams fumble was a huge blow as Utah was putting together a nice drive (albeit with the help of a penalty) in response to UCLA’s quick opening touchdown drive. A phantom holding call on Bubba Poole nullified a great catch by Kenneth Scott that would have had Utah on the 1-yard line. Instead, Utah would be backed up and have to settle for a field goal. The Utes would again have to settle for a field goal on the opening drive of the second half, despite reaching the UCLA 2-yard line. A bad read by Wilson and poor execution on the ensuing plays kept the Utes from reaching pay dirt and taking the lead.
Regardless of all the blown opportunities and uninspired offense throughout the game, Utah had a chance to tie and send it to overtime with a touchdown and a two-point conversion. Instead, the Utes blew it in heartbreaking fashion. After converting a ridiculous fourth down, Wilson and Williams collided on a fake hand off and fumbled the ball, and the game, away.
An entire dissertation can be written on how bad the Utah offense has been, but it’s enough to say that every player and coach deserves their fare share of criticism. To lump all the blame on one player, position, or coach would be naïve.
Anyways, outside of the opening drive, the Utah defense did their part as usual. UCLA’s dangerous offense was held in check, scoring a season low 17 points. Despite limiting the Bruins offense, Utah only sacked Rosen one time and failed to get a takeaway. Missed opportunities hurt the defense almost as much as the offense. Hatfield had a chance to keep points off the board but couldn’t finish the catch in the back of the end zone. Jared Norris almost made an incredible backward-diving interception that would have set up the offense with great field position. Brian Allen dropped an interception that would have been a touchdown and would have shifted the momentum of the game.
The special teams unit did enough to keep the game close. Andy Phillips came up clutch on all three of his field goal attempts. Tom Hackett averaged 49 yards a punt with a long of 67. The coverage teams did well outside of one kickoff that would have went to the house if Phillips didn’t make the tackle. The return game was non-existent, especially with Covey leaving the game due to injury.
Speaking of which, injuries have really caught up to Utah. Against UCLA alone, the Utes lost Covey, Carter, and Porter. Combine that with the loss of Booker, Hansen, Mokofisi, Dimick, Patrick, Moeai, Fakailoatonga, McCormick, etc. Injuries happen on every team, but Utah’s depth isn’t as good as other teams.
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