It wasn't pretty, but the Utes came away victorious for the sixth straight time, with a 20-19 win over BYU on Saturday night. The UteZone staff breaks down the performance of each position group in Utah's close win:
Offensive Position Grades
Troy Williams had his moments at times, but overall was not very good, but made enough plays to earn a just above failure grade. Williams can't play like he did vs BYU for the rest of the season if the Utes are to accomplish their goals. His poor decisions, particularly the times where he forced throws that weren’t open led to three interceptions that nearly cost the Utes the game. There were also times where Williams seemed hesitant to pull the ball down and run when the opportunity presented itself. Troy made some nice throws, particularly the touchdown throw to Tim Patrick, but there weren't nearly enough. The red zone interception was especially inexcusable. That type of mistake cannot happen going forward.
Running Backs: C
Another week, another disappointing showing from Joe Williams. The fumbling issues continue, and are exacerbated by Williams' paltry 2.6 yards per carry. If these issues continue, the Utes can't continue to trust him in critical moments. The good news is the offense may have something in true freshman Zack Moss. He was the main driver behind Utah's big 4th quarter drive and ended the game with 12 carries for 58 yards. The most promising thing from Moss was how he earned his yards. He showed vision, patience, decisiveness, and toughness in his carries. Troy McCormick also had a good night running 10 times for 62 yards, showing that explosiveness and speed. We wouldn't be surprised to see Moss be the guy moving forward, the thunder to the lightning of McCormick & Williams.
Wide Receivers & Tight Ends: C
It was an average showing from the receivers tonight. The good: six different receivers caught at least two passes, with Patrick and Smith going for 60 & 59 yards. Handley & Moeai each caught passes in the middle of the field for key first downs. Fulks again wasn’t used much in the passing game, which was disappointing, especially considering that they incorporated some jet sweeps for him early on. His drop on a 3rd down conversion attempt didn't help matters on that front. Singleton’s fumble on the first drive for the Utes was a killer. Utah had the momentum after a pick six, and that gave it right back to the Cougars.
Offensive Line: B-
The offensive line had a much better showing compared to last week. They were better in the run game, especially on the crucial drive in the 4th quarter. With Garret Bolles having a rough night again, and Jackson Barton in at left tackle on the crucial drive, it wouldn't surprise us to see a bit of a shakeup at the tackle position. Film will reveal a lot, but initial reaction was that Barton had a much better night, avoiding silly mistakes helps a lot. Center JJ Dielman had a much better night. Although there were still a few low snaps, they snaps that missed weren't at Troy Williams' ankles. Overall, Dielman seemed more comfortable in the middle. Asiata & Uhatafe were strong in the run game and were arguably the best of the group.
Defensive Position Grades
Defensive Line: A-
After a slow start against SUU, the defensive line was abusive early and it looked to be a long game for BYU’s offensive line. They held strong as Jamaal Williams was shackled to only 58 yards in 3 ½ quarters. They were making things uncomfortable for Hill in the pocket all night long, even directly causing one of the interceptions. Pasoni Tasini showed the depth at the tackle position by taking advantage of his snaps. The line struggled with contain at times and Kylie Fitts was missed on the edge. BYU repeatedly attacked Pita Taumoepenu on the option, which resulted in some big gains by Taysom Hill. They were stout against better competition this week.
The big question mark on defense this season is proving themselves one game at a time. Sunia Tauteoli started off the first play of the game with an interception that was returned for a touchdown. He followed that up with a very impressive interception that would make Gionni Paul proud. Cody Barton came very close to getting his paws on a pass in coverage as well. At times, they can get beat around the edge, but it appears it’s a more a read/reaction issue than physical speed. That is something they can continue to improve.
The cornerbacks were not faced with a tough task as Hill wasn’t very accurate most of the game, only completing 53% of his passes. Porter struggled a bit last week, but stepped up big this game. Hill thought he could beat him with another back-shoulder throw, but Porter made him pay with an interception. Porter also made a great open field tackle on Taysom Hill which halted a third down conversion. Missing for the second game was Domo Hatfield, but Brian Allen stepped up again in his absence, including a great corner blitz. The nickle backs were dependable as well.
The safeties were a bit quieter tonight, but didn’t give up any big plays. Marcus Williams took a bad angle on an option keeper by Hill. But he also made some great plays, including getting a hand in the final stop on the 2-point conversion, along with Dimick. Hansen was all over the place as well, almost getting a strip on a tackle-for-loss. Overall, they played a good game. The defense received a very deserving game ball. I couldn’t give them anything less than As across the board. They are the reason the Utes had any business winning this game.
Special Teams Grades
Punt Team: C-
This grade is lower than it should be largely because of Boobie Hobbs' 2nd half fumble. Hobbs didn't do much in the return game, gaining 10 yards on 3 returns, but the fumble was avoidable. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky was outstanding once again, averaging 52.3 yards on three punts, and dropping one inside the 20. Wishnowsky looks like a real weapon for Kyle Whittingham, and will help the Utes down the stretch.
Kickoff Team: B
On the coverage side, the Utes were strong, keeping the BYU return game in check. Hayes Hicken had touchbacks on four of his five kickoffs. The kickoff return game was anemic, averaging only 13 yards per return.
Placekicking Team: A+
In a game where every point mattered, Andy Phillips was perfect, hitting two field goals and two extra points. His 47 yarder in the first half was Phillips' best kick of the season.
Editor's note: Steve Bartle (offensive grades) and Joel Davidson (defensive grades) contributed to this story.