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Position grades: Utah vs. Cal

UteZone breaks down the performance of each position group in Utah's heartbreaking loss to Cal

Offensive Position Grades

Quarterback: B-

Somewhat eerily similar to last weeks games, the Utes down two scores with about 9 minutes left in the 4th, Troy Williams led his team down the field 75 yards for a touchdown. The defense gets a crucial stop and gets the offense back to the offense. Troy then leads his team all the way to the redzone but, unlike last week, is unable to get the offense in the endzone. Troy had a huge opportunity on 3rd down to run it in, but didn’t seize it as he hesitated and threw it high to Moeai. It was a missed opportunity to as a leader to “put the team on his back” and run it in for the score. 

Running Backs: B-

While the running backs were efficient in the run game, they weren’t anything special. It’s hard to knock your top two running backs when they combine for 44 carries 165 yards 3.75 avg and 3 touchdowns, but it just seemed like the Utes needed more from them. McCormick’s disappearance is a frustrating one as he seems to be an explosive player they just can’t seem to figure out how to use properly. He’s lost opportunities and with the carries he does get, he seems to be pressing and looking for the home run. 

Wide Receivers & Tight Ends: C+

First off, not having Butler-Byrd hurt, but for the birth of his child his absence is more than understandable. Have to give props to a guy that just wants to be on the field contributing to his team’s efforts. Patrick was definitely hobbled tonight, but still attempted to fight through it and give his team all that he had. Raelon Singleton stepped up tonight in Patrick’s absence, going for 7 Rec and 98 yds. He made two crucial catches for first downs on the Utes last two possessions, he looks to be emerging as the No. 2. Also have to really like what you see out of the freshman Demari Simpkins, his catch across the middle was impressive. The dropped pass by Moeai was a heartbreaker! He catches that and walks into the endzone, just very unfortunate. Overall it just felt like there were too many drops & mistakes. When you miss your top two guys, it’s important for coaches to get others to step up, and I don’t feel like we had anyone other than Raelon do that. 

Offensive Line: B-

Losing on of your captains in JJ Dielman early on was not good. His absence became more apparent in those last few plays. Last week we saw him, Isaac, and Salesi dominate the interior of the line against a much more formidable defensive line. That’s what was missing tonight for me, Lo Falemaka stepped in and did as well as he could have, but it just wasn’t good enough there at the end. The offensive line played extremely well throughout the game, but when it mattered most, they weren't able to win the game doing what they do best, and that hurts really bad. 

Defensive Position Grades

Defensive Line Grade: A-

Despite the absence of two starters, the defensive line had another diligent showing in the 5th game of the season. Cal didn’t run many plays and only 14 of them were on the ground, yielding 56 yards. They weren’t giving up much, often stopping run plays at or near the line of scrimmage. When faced with an air-raid style offense, your aspiration for quarterback pressure is high. At times, David Webb seemed to have an eternity to wait for his big play receivers to get downfield for the long ball. Other times, the pocket closed quickly, forcing quick passes or incompletes. You also want more sacks, but Pita Taumoepenu did come through with a huge sack to force a 3rd and very long on Cal’s last offensive possession.

Linebackers: B-

Utah was in a lot of nickel and even some dime formations to combat Cal’s passing attack. This left Sunia Tauteoli as the only linebacker on the field for quite a few snaps. David Luafatasaga was the other linebacker in a 4-2-5. I don’t recall seeing Barton at all during the game and Chase Hansen played in the box quite a bit. The linebackers weren’t involved in a lot of plays and struggled when they were in position. They missed a few tackles. Kavika quickly recognized a screen pass in the backfield on one play, but couldn’t wrap up for the loss. Tauteoli appears incapable of shedding blocks and needs to give more effort. This group still has a long way to go still.

Safeties: B

Chase Hansen probably had the best individual day on the defensive side of the ball. As I mentioned earlier, he was lined up in the box quite a bit. Early in the game, he chased down a Cal running back from the backside for a tackle. He fought through a block to break up a swing pass. He blew up another short pass after a very quick read as well. The guy is just a playmaker and continues consistent play week after week. Marcus Williams had another quiet game and I really expected him to be more impactful. I would have put money on him getting an interception, maybe even two due to Cal’s style of offense. But Webb seemed to do a good job of throwing the deep ball to the wide receiver on the opposite side of the field as Williams. Marcus finished with four tackles on the night, two of them being solo.

Cornerbacks: B

After watching that game, I think most fans came away frustrated with the play of the cornerbacks. But I’m going to stick my neck out for them here because, despite the big plays, Cal was held to more than 100 yards under their passing average on the season. Chad Hansen, the best wide receiver early in the season, didn’t even reach the century mark. Brian Allen struggled mightily, but he did get the lone interception on the night as well. A lot of people were asking why true freshman Justin Blackmon was given the task of covering Chad Hansen, but we learned it was because of the absence of Reggie Porter. It was a tough task and some big plays were made, but they still gave the Golden Bears their best game yet.

Special Teams Grades

Placekicking Unit: C+

Andy Phillips was short on a 47 yard field goal. It was clear that the injury he's been playing through all season had a major impact on the miss. He was otherwise perfect on the night.

Punt Unit: B+

Mitch Wishnowski had another solid effort, pinning two of his three punts inside the Cal 20 yard line. He didn't have an opportunity to show off his booming leg, but it was a good game overall. On the return side, Boobie Hobbs made things interesting on a couple of his returns, but was never able to break away and make a real impact. 

Kickoff Unit: B

Cal didn't do much in the return game, as the coverage team did a good job maintaining their lanes. The grade is docked because of a penalty on a kick out of bounds. On the return side, Utah looked better, but still has yet to make an impact play that Ute fans are used to seeing. 

Editor's Note: Steve Bartle provided the offensive grades and Joel Davidson provided the defensive grades. 

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