Utah's 31-27 win over USC was a comeback victory that will long be remembered in Salt Lake City. In the wake of the Utes' victory, we take a closer look at the performance of each of the position groups:
Offensive Position Grades
Troy Williams won this game for Utah. When the team needed him most, he stepped up, and in a big way. That comes from talent and preparation. That comes from leadership. Williams finished the night 21/34 for 270 yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 17 yards rushing, 1 touchdown, and most importantly zero turnovers. He’s the unquestioned leader of this offensive group, and brings a swagger that his teammates feed off of. His ball placement was very impressive, putting it where only his guys would get it and threw all over the field. It was a masterful performance in the biggest win of Williams' career thus far.
Running Backs: B+
How good did Zack Moss and Armand Shyne look tonight? USC may be struggling, but it is not due to a lack of talent and ability on the defensive side of the ball. These two wasted no time getting up field, finding holes or tiny creases for positive yardage. Between the two of them, they combined for 37 carries and 152 yards, which is good for a 4.1 average. Of course, you’d like a higher average, but that still moves the chains every three carries. That’s what Utah wants from the run game, just a consistent grind.
Wide Receivers & Tight Ends: B+
Tim Patrick had the most receiving yards in the game… for both teams. Not only that, but he had the toughest matchup, going against Adoree Jackson, but he absolutely certified his status as a legitimate threat in the Pac-12. Cory Butler-Byrd made catches for crucial first downs and also had a nice gain on a reverse. He looks to be the 2nd option this team has desperately needed. Raelon Singleton caught his first touchdown of the season, and also had two other catches for good gains. All together, ten different players made catches tonight, that is a good sign.
Offensive Line: A-
The offensive line had a very impressive night. They were getting push on the first level, and creating some holes in the run game. Also, they provided Troy Williams with time in the pocket almost the entire night. Perhaps the biggest play of the night for the line was Isaac Asiata jumping on a fumble in the end zone to score a touchdown. Garret Bolles' devastating block on linebacker Cam Smith was a close second. This was by far the O line's most impressive showing of the season.
Defensive Position Grades
Defensive Line: C-
With the loss of Lowell Lotutlelei, I guess you could say I graded on a curve. We saw the impact of what losing your best player has tonight. The USC offensive line dominated the trenches, they were just bigger & badder. But led by Pasoni Tasini & Hunter Dimick, the defensive line continued to battle all night. Alani Havili-Katoa was forced into action and looked like he had a rough night, but it’s an opportunity for him to learn & develop.
Ugh. The linebacker play was beyond frustrating. Way too many mistakes. They were out of position too many times, and at times when they were in position, they were just beat athletically. They just looked lost and completely unaware of what was going on. Coach Ena has a lot of work to do this week, and if things don't improve, there should be changes.
It felt much worse than it was, but it was still pretty bad. Zone coverage between the corner’s and safeties was just awful. USC wide receivers caught a good amount of balls completely wide open on routes crossing the field. When they were challenged individually, they actually made a good amount of plays. Justin Thomas, Brian Allen, and Dominique Hatfield had pass breakups that I recall off the top of my head. No question though, this group has to play at a higher level. They're more than capable.
Again, the zone coverage was awful, and it could have been much worse as there were a few blown coverages that just weren’t recognized. Chase Hansen had the better night of the two, as he forced a TO and should’ve had another. Zone coverages and communication has to be a point of emphasis this upcoming week or it could get real ugly at Cal.
Special Teams Position Grades
Punt Units: A-
Adoree Jackson did not return a punt, that’s a major win. Mitch Wishnowsky again had a masterful night punting the ball. He had 3 punts and all 3 were inside the 20, one of which was pinned inside the 10 and another inside the 5. There was only one punt return opportunity though, and that was pinned inside the 5.
Kickoff Units: D+
Giving up a 100 yard touchdown stinks, not being able to consistently kick the ball out the endzone also stinks. The Trojans had good field position on their returns, while the Utes did not. Not sure what is going on, but this has been the most disappointing unit of the season so far.
Special #HandCrafted Helmets: A+