It wasn't always pretty, but Utah football started their season 3-0 with a 34-17 win over San Jose State on Saturday night. The game started slowly for the Utes, but the outcome was well in hand by the start of the 4th quarter. UteZone breaks down the performance of each position group during the Utes' big win.
Offensive Position Grades
It felt much worse than it actually was, the INT in the redzone was an absolute killer. That was a terrible decision, they should’ve ran it first of all, but Troy shouldn’t have thrown it. He ended up completing 20/28 for 257 yds 1 TD and 1 INT, which is a good stat line, but it just felt like it could have been much better. Those chunk plays sure do help though. Moving onto next week, Troy has to - absolutely has to - clean up those decisions, you just can’t leave points on the field in the redzone.
Running Backs: A-
Outside of another fumble lost, the trio of Moss, Shyne & McCormick had a terrific night. Each of them scored a touchdown, with Moss running for 100 yds, Shyne for 92 yds, and McCormick for 61. The yards per carry for all three backs was astounding (7.9 for Moss, 7.7 for Shyne and 8.7 for McCormick). They all ran hard and showed good vision following their blocks and making good cuts. Moss still tried to bounce it outside a couple time he shouldn’t have, but he’s learning and made some great runs later on.
Wide Receivers & Tight Ends: C+
The receivers were better than last week, where they earned a C grade. Tim Patrick has developed a nice chemistry with Williams as he had another big night going for 6 rec 121 yds and 1 TD. He had a few plays that were close to completions or should have been called PI’s. Cory Butler-Byrd showed why there was so much hype surrounding him. He showed explosiveness, and some impressive shake. He made the move of the year, by faking inside and cutting it back outside for 45 yards down the sideline. Evan Moeai added 3 more catches, which doubles his catch total for the season. Troy still needs a consistent number 2 option to emerge, it’s been Patrick and then a group effort. Butler-Byrd showed he could be that guy tonight, but we’ll see what happens. A couple of bad drops prevent this grade from being higher than what it is.
Offensive Line: B-
The offensive line took a quarter to get going but once they did, they looked good. They gave up too much pressure in pass protection and got beat a couple times on run plays, but overall they established themselves and controlled the line. Watching them in the game, they did some very good things. I'm eager to rewatch the game and get a better idea of exactly how they did, but initial impression was above average.
Defensive Position Grades
Defensive Line: A
This defense must like a swift kick in the rear before getting down to business. Maybe they like toying with their opponent, giving them some false sense of hope and accomplishment. Whatever it is, they seem to put it together by about the end of the first quarter. I can’t complain too much, as everyone on the line ended up with a sack, some even getting two. The tackles were splitting double teams and causing negative plays by putting San Jose guards on skates. At this point, Pasoni Tasini is a starter in my book. I don’t care who takes the first snap of the game. He’s been that good through three games. Hunter Dimick was having his way with the right tackle, beating him with speed and power. He does an excellent job containing his side of the line. He also forced another throw which resulted in an interception. Pita Taumoepenu is still playing a bit too reckless though. He is losing contain and getting beat on option plays. He needs to improve because teams are going to keep attacking him. He did make some great plays though, including a strip-sack, which the QB recovered, and chasing down Potter on that ridiculous scramble.
I’m taking a step back with the linebackers this week. They’ve had some big plays, but have been out of position quite a bit, overrunning plays, and repeatedly missed tackles. I like the aggressive play calls for Tauteoli, but he needs to settle down and wrap up the QB on those inside blitzes. On the other hand, once they recognize a play, they are slow to react or just wait for the play to come to them. Cody Barton did put some heat on the QB which forced an errant throw resulting in Marcus Williams second interception of the year. We also saw more of the 4-3 with Luafatasaga as the third backer, but aside from a close targeting call, he was pretty quiet.
For the most part, the cornerbacks had a solid game against the Spartans. Reggie Porter pulled in a tough interception that was almost ruled incomplete. Brian Allen had a few pass breakups and read a screen pass beautifully for a tackle-for-loss. Justin Thomas had a better game, even contributing to the return of Sack Lake City with a strip-sack that was also quickly recovered by the San Jose’s quarterback. One thing the cornerbacks need to work on is covering the back shoulder throw. It appears that scouting reports are catching on as they’ve been beat three weeks in row on these passes. Also, Brian Allen had a couple of bad penalties including an early facemask and a pass interference.
Aside from Marcus Williams interception, the safeties had another relatively quiet night from a big play perspective. Chase Hansen seems to be all over the place, be it in the box, in coverage, or blitzing the quarterback. He just hasn’t made the big play we’re all anticipating. He is still wearing a cast on his hand, which may be hindering his play a bit. Marcus Williams was a bit out of position on a few plays that resulted in big gains. The 53 yard catch and run and the end of the game being one of them. Andre Godfrey looked quite rusty out there though. He bit hard on a run block which resulted in San Jose’s first touchdown as well as being out of position on another play as well. But if you take away two big catch-and-run plays, San Jose only manages 151 yards in the air.