Utah pulled off an important road win over UCLA on Saturday, beating the Bruins 52-45. Following Utah's big win, the UteZone staff breaks down the performance of each position group.
Offensive Position Grades
It was a pretty mediocre game from Troy Williams, but against this UCLA secondary, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He ended 12 for 24 for 179 yards and one interception. The interception was bad, as it was a ball that shouldn’t have been thrown, but it was tipped and then intercepted. Outside of that, Williams protected the ball and was smart with his throws. However, he was a little erratic with his accuracy. The Utes will need a bounce back game from Williams next week.
Running Backs: A+++
Joe “Watch The Back of My Jersey” Williams! What a statement from him, both on the field and after the game in the presser. After a stellar game against Oregon State, Williams proved emphatically that not only is he back, but he's better than he ever was. He ran all over the UCLA defense, setting a new school record with 332 yards on 29 carries. It was the first 300-yard rushing game in school history and the highest rushing total this NCAA season. Oh, and he just happened to add 4 touchdowns to that as well. Joe looked unbelievably good this week, as he was patient but ran with a burst we haven’t seen this year from anyone. His vision is great, as he’s finding space where others may not. He looks completely different, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Utah.
Wide Receivers & Tight Ends: B
Going against arguably the second best secondary in the conference, two receivers stepped up and made plays that were crucial for the Utes success today. Siaosi Wilson opened the day with a 42 yard reception over two UCLA defenders on the second possession of the game for the Utes. Cory Butler-Byrd has developed a really good chemistry with Troy Williams, making key catches throughout the game, and finished with five catches for 67 yards.
Offensive Line: A-
This was a very difficult matchup for the Utes offensive line. UCLA has a very big, athletic, and talent defensive front. UCLA made plays ending the game with 5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss, but when the group blocks for a running back that ends up with 332 yards, it’s hard not to be encouraged by that. Most of the sacks came from Troy getting out of the pocket and running to the sideline, which makes it difficult to put that on the offensive line. Nick Nowakowski has made very encouraging strides at center, he’s still struggling with his snaps, but he had a good game. Asiata and Bolles were mauling people all over the field, this was a great game for them.
Defensive Line: B-
UCLA chose to run the ball only 16 times for a measly 2.9 ypc. As usual, the line got the job done against the run. But they struggled mightily getting to Fafaul on 70 passing attempts, only tallying two sacks on the night. They were able to get pressure at times, but also looked completely gassed on a lot of plays. It was the group’s worst game yet. I gave the grade a bit of a bump though because Mokofisi came up with a clutch sack on UCLA’s last drive, which effectively killed their chances of getting a game-tying touchdown.
Sunia Tauteoli was missed more than any other injured player in this game. Early in the game, Cody Barton narrowly escaped an ejection after a hit high hit on Fafaul that resulted in a roughing-the-passer penalty. Kavika Luafatasaga was an improvement in the single linebacker formations. But UCLA found most of their success attacking the defense with quick intermediate passes. The linebackers were slow to react in coverage and also missed far too many tackles. The result was yards-after-the-catch and touchdowns. These two have had plenty of in-game experience and I expect better results.
This game would have been made a bit easier if Marcus Williams played, but Jordan Fogal really stepped it up. He wasn’t perfect in his first start of the season, but UCLA didn’t go over the top much and he came away with two interceptions. Fogal also made a huge play, blowing up the backfield on a 4th-and-1 attempt. Hansen had a decent game as well. He continues to create turnovers by forcing fumbles. But at the end of the day, UCLA still racked up almost 500 yards passing on 40 completed passes. Too many missed tackles.
The cornerbacks had a rough day trying to defend UCLA’s air assault. Each corner got beat at one point or another and they missed tackles as well. Brian Allen fared the best by grabbing a couple of interceptions and he had two more go through his hands. Fafaul was only able to complete 57% of his passes, but still got the better of the group. The UCLA passing stats are inexcusable.
Special Team Grades
Punt Units: B-
Mitch Wishnowsky was slightly under his punting average again this week at 43.3 yards per kick. He did drop a punt right on UCLA’s 5 yard line, adding to that stat line. Punt coverage did give up a big 35 yard return late in the game which resulted in a quick score. Boobie Hobbs continues to be a bit of a head scratcher on returns. He averaged about 9 yards, but coughed up a fumble that was recovered by Utah.
Kickoff Units: A-
Cory Butler-Byrd opened the game with a 99 yard return for a touchdown. You can’t make a better statement on the road than that. He finished the game with 175 yards on 5 returns. Hayes Hicken was a bit short on most of his kickoffs, resulting in 4 returns with an average of 26 yards per return. He did make a great tackle on one return though, probably saving a touchdown.
Placekicking Units: A-
All four of Andy Phillips field goal attempts were from beyond 40 yards. He did miss one, but was accurate from 45, 45, and 46. He was perfect on extra points.
Editor's Note: Steve Bartle contributed the Offense position grades and Joel Davidson contributed the Defense and Special Teams position grades.