This week in the ‘Film Room’, UteZone will be analyzing three offensive and defensive plays that helped shape the 36-23 win over the Arizona Wildcats. The following are key plays throughout the game, both good and bad, that made a noticeable difference on the game.
1. 3RD Quarter – 3rd and 13 at Utah’s 29-yard line
Utah starts the 2nd half with the ball, and after a very lackluster first half filled with 7 false starts, really need to get something going and cease momentum in the game. A loss on first down, and incompletion on second down, set up a third and long situation. Utah lines up in a five wide look, with Arizona in a 3-3-5, man to man look. The Wildcats will do a twist with two of their linebackers at the snap, bringing five total in pressure.
The offensive line picks up the blitz perfectly, but the middle of the field is highly congested with players. Troy Williams sees this, and rolls to his right, towards his main target, Cory Butler-Byrd. Utah is running a clear out with most of their receivers, meaning they’re taking the man lined up on them deep in order to clear out the underneath route for Butler-Byrd. Butler-Byrd is matched up with a linebacker, and that’s just a bad matchup for Arizona. Butler-Byrd runs a drag route, and Williams places the ball perfectly in front of Butler-Byrd.
After the catch, Butler-Byrd does what he does best, making defenders look silly in the open field. Kyle Fulks makes a great block on his man to prevent him from being able to make an attempt at tackling Butler-Byrd, and #1 in the photo below just has no shot at making a tackle with the angle he takes. Butler-Byrd is the most dangerous player Utah has in the open field, and he proved it on this play.
2. 3rd Quarter –2nd and 4 at Arizona’s 26-yard line
Utah has successfully captured all the momentum, and after forcing an interception, have started driving down the field very meticulously. Utah lines up on 2nd and 4 in their base 11 personnel, with Evan Moeai split off the left of Garett Bolles. Arizona has a 3-4 look on defense.
Utah’s running their basic power run play here, pulling right guard Salesi Uhatafe across the formation. The remaining Ute linemen block down to the right, and crunch the three Wildcat defensive linemen. Evan Moeai gets great positioning on the outside linebacker, putting his head on the inside shoulder of the defender, and that leaves two Utes against two Wildcats. The Arizona LB attempts to fill the gaping hole that has been created, but he’s unsuccessful going against Uhatafe. That leaves the lone remaining Wildcat linebacker one on one with Armand Shyne.
The Wildcat linebacker is a step slow, and Shyne is able to break a weak arm tackle. Once that’s done, it’s all open field for Shyne, as Siaosi Wilson has good position to block to the cornerback, and Cory Butler-Byrd has pulled the safety to the middle of the field away from Shyne.
3. 4th Quarter – 2ND and 5 at Arizona’s 18-yard line
Utah is now trying to put this game on ice, with just six in a half minutes left in the game and a 12-point lead. Running back Armand Shyne just went down with a bad knee injury, and now have a walk-on JUCO transfer in at running back, Jordan Howard. Utah has been reluctant to run designed runs for Troy Williams, but are now pretty much forced to. They line up with 21 personnel (2 tight ends, 1 running back), and motion Evan Moeai in to a fullback position. Arizona is once again in their base 3-4.
Isaac Asiata takes the tackle lined up over him and pushes him inside, opening up a huge hole. Nick Nowakowski immediately gets to the next level, and Troy Williams follows Moeai and Howard up a huge hole.
Howard, Moeai and Nowakowski all get perfect blocks, and Williams has a lot of running room. He displays his elite athleticism by putting a nice spin move on the safety, and then is tackled at the 2-yard line. Williams would score two plays later.
1. 1ST Quarter – 1st and 10 at Arizona’s 25-yard line
Arizona lines up with four wide receivers for the first play of the game, and Utah lines up in a 3-3-5, with Chase Hansen lined up at linebacker. Utah’s pre-snap look is that of man-to-man defense.
Arizona runs what appears to be a typical read-option to start, and Brandon Dawkins keeps the ball as he sees the Ute defensive line crash down. Kavika Luafatasaga comes up field to attempt to stop the QB run. What appeared to man-to-man defense in the secondary actually looks now like a Cover 3 zone. Boobie Hobbs moves to the shallow zone to his right, which is mirrored by the Justin Thomas on the other side of the formation. That would mean that Porter has deep third responsibility in this case, with Marcus Williams having deep third in the middle of the field. Both Porter and Williams have their eyes in the backfield, and don’t notice the slot receiver streaking down the field.
By the time Williams and Porter realize what’s going on, Dawkins is throwing the ball, and the receiver has 5+ yards of separation. Easy throw and catch for a huge touchdown.
2. 2nd Quarter – 2nd and 10 at Arizona’s 2-yard line
After Mitch Wishnowsky pins Arizona deep in their own territory, Arizona brings out true freshman QB Khalil Tate for the first time in the game. Tate is big, physical runner, and they intend to use him to try and get some space. Despite being so close to the goal line, Arizona only has one tight end and running back in the formation. Utah is in a 4-2-5, but creep up Chase Hansen as a third linebacker.
The play for Arizona is blown up within half a second of it starting. DT Pasoni Tasini makes a great move to side step the Arizona offensive linemen at the snap, and is too quick for him. It’s a bold move by Tasini, because if it doesn’t work, it leaves a huge hole where he once was. Arizona is attempting to run up the hole between the guard and center on the left, so the running back runs straight to that hole to block, completely ignoring Tasini.
Once the running back decides not to block Tasini, the play is over, as Tasini makes the easy tackle in the end zone to force a safety, and really get the momentum going in Utah’s favor.
3. 3rd Quarter – 3rd and 19 at Utah’s 46-yard line
Third and long for Arizona, who just surrendered the lead to Utah to begin the half. They line up with 11 personnel, and Utah is in their base 4-2-5. Utah shows blitz with its; linebackers and nickel back, but then rotate back in to Cover 2 just before the snap.
Arizona blocks the 4-man rush well, and open up a nice pocket for Dawkins to step up in to. Arizona runs a well-designed play against Cover 2. The two outside receivers stay on the outside, which makes the two safeties over the top have to be cognizant of them going deep. The tight end then flares out to the left, which pulls the nickel back up towards the line of scrimmage, leaving a hole in the middle of the field. The slot receiver runs a post pattern to the soft spot in the middle of the field and is open early.
What happens though is that Dawkins hesitates just a second too long before delivering the ball. He makes a good throw, but Chase Hansen was able to make a break on the ball due to the hesitation. Hansen deliver a jarring hit just after the receiver touches the ball, and it sends the ball up over the top of Hansen. Thanks to some fortuitous bounces off of Hansen’s back and the receiver’s leg, Marcus Williams is heads up enough to lay out and make an incredible play to snag the ball with one hand before it hits the ground. The earlier safety by the Ute defense certainly got things turned around for Utah, but this was the play of the game for the defense.