Utah's 30-28 loss to Oregon was a bitter pill to swallow in a lot of ways. Not only did the Utes give up a late touchdown that sealed their fate on Senior Day, but the loss lall but ended any of Utah's chances to win a division title. UteZone takes a closer look at what happened with each position group that led to the loss:
Troy Williams was good throwing the ball today, but indecisive in the run game, and lost a fumble in the redzone. His throws were accurate pretty much on point all game, and when he did run, he ran with success. His few minor errors though prevented another Utah score, and some stability on the offensive side of the ball.
Running Back: A
Joe Williams was great today again. His 5th straight game of 100+ rushing yards, and he eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season, in just his 7th game of the year. Pretty incredible. Zack Moss got a couple of carries today, and ran the ball well too. Nothing really to complain about from this group of guys.
Wide Receivers & Tight Ends: B
No drops today, but the group as a whole struggled to get open in some key moments. They also came up with some pretty big grabs that gave Utah a chance to win. Blocking was good on the outside and by the tight end inline.
Offensive Line: C-
Some may not agree, but I thought this was a pretty disappointing game from everyone on the offensive line. Oregon is statistically the worst defense in the conference, and the Utes O Line struggled to open running lanes during key stretches, and also allowed way too much pressure on the quarterback. This offensive line has been so good the past 4 weeks, but they took a very large step back today. To end on a positive note, there weren't any false starts on this group today.
Offensive Coaching: D-
What was the game plan? Was there a game plan? Oregon came in to the game giving up the 2nd most rushing yards (243) and points (43) in the conference, and Utah rushed for 218 yards and the offense scored just 21 points. Oregon didn't stop Utah on the ground, or hold them to their yardage, no, Utah refused to stick to the run game during key moments of the game. As a team, they averaged 6 yards per carry. Joe Williams averaged nearly 7 by himself. Yet, we saw this offense, time and time again, come out and try to establish a passing game that has been inconsistent at best during the season. Too many 3 and outs were a byproduct of poor game planning and poor play calling. I seriously wonder if they believe they could simply take the field and score 35+ points like so many teams have done on Oregon this season. Well, they couldn't, and that falls squarely on the coaches’ shoulders.
Defensive Line: C-
The D line made big plays in stretches. Hunter Dimick had two sacks and Lowell Lotulelei had another. However, for a defensive line loaded with future NFL talent, Utah had a hard time putting pressure on Justin Herbert when they were rushing him with a four man front. Additionally, a team that prides itself on stopping the run got beat consistently at the point of attack. They allowed 251 rushing yards and an un-Utah like 5.8 yards per carry against the Ducks.
Linebacker play was flat out dreadful this afternoon. Oregon had a terrific scheme in place to make the Utah linebackers react and attack the weakness when they made mistakes, and there were a lot of mistakes. The fact that Sunia Tauteoli was out didn’t help matters. Cody Barton in particular got picked on a lot this afternoon. Yes, he had 20 tackles, but a lot of them were 6-7 yards down the field. And he had several missed tackles that led to big gains for Oregon. The lone bright spot for the Utes was the performance of true freshman Donovan Thompson in the second half. He brought energy and sound tackling where it hadn’t been.
The corners gave up far too many big plays on a day where Oregon was missing some of its biggest playmakers. The touchdown on the trick play was a completely blown coverage, and the Utes gave up too many catches on slant routes on 3rd and 4th down, extending drives and keeping the defense on the field. Justin Thomas dropping the easiest pick 6 of his career didn’t help matters.
It was a somewhat lackluster day for Utah’s safeties – uncharacteristic for what has been the best unit on Utah’s defense this year. Marcus Williams had 12 tackles and Chase Hansen had 9, but both missed tackles in critical junctures of the game, and neither were able to make any of the big game changing plays that we’re so accustomed to seeing.
Defensive Coaching: D+
On a game where the defense allowed 575 yards of offense, it's not reasonable to grade anything more than a D+. While the Utes "only" gave up 30 points on that 575 yards, they had a hard time getting stops when they needed them most. The defense was masterful in the first half, but the wheels came off in the second and they weren't able to adjust. The scheme wasn't necessarily bad, but the execution was lacking far too often. In the end, when the Utes needed one more play, they came just inches short.
Punting Unit: B-
Mitch Wishnowsky had another solid game, averaging more than 47 yards per punt, including one that was dropped at the Oregon 2 yard line. However, a 45 yard punt return for the Ducks that was enabled by several missed tackles docks Utah’s grade on the day. The punt return led to an Oregon touchdown, and was a pivotal play in the game.
Editor’s Note: Andrew Gorringe provided the offensive grades and Dan Sorensen provided the defense and special teams grades.