Utah suffered another close loss on Saturday, this time coming at the hands of the Colorado Buffaloes. UteZone's Andrew Gorringe (offense) and Joel Davidson (defense and special teams) break down the performance of each position group:
Troy Williams picked a bad time to have the worst game of his Utah career. He didn't get much help from the rest of the offensive players, but he was inaccurate in the throw game, and made some very, very poor decisions in the run game. Somehow, Troy has regressed throughout the year. Is that on coaching or the player? That's a toughquestion, but it was not a good night for him against Colorado.
Running Back: D
Colorado held Joe Williams to a post-retirement low on rushing yards for the season, and his two fumbles were catalysts in Utah's loss. There weren't many running lanes throughout the night, and I do think that Joe ran hard on the night, but you can't cough it up twice, one being returned for a touchdown, and have a successful night.
Wide Receivers & Tight Ends: D
Way, way, way too many drops today. Tim Patrick came up with some critical catches that kept Utah in the game for as long as they were, but he also dropped 3 or 4 passes, one of which would've been a touchdown. Demari Simpkins made a great grab for the first touchdown of his career, and continues to show flashes of a bright future. No other receiver or tight end did anything of note on the day.
Offensive Line: C
Pass protection was pretty good against the Buffs. They brought a lot of pressure to start the game, and there were some hiccups, but for the most part they were pretty solid in this area of the game. The same can't be said for the run game. The Colorado defensive line man handled the Utes at the line of scrimmage, which is the main reason Joe Williams couldn't get anything going. Nick Nowakowski was brutalized in the trenches tonight, and the rest of the offensive line didn't fare much better.
Offensive Coaching: D
I don't even know where to begin. Zero creativity. It's the same plays over and over it seems like. Even when they run a trick play, it's one we've seen before. Player execution was dreadful tonight, but a large amount of blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the coaching staff for getting one touchdown in five redzone trips. Why isn't Utah trying to run more heavy sets down inside the ten? Why are they insisting on calling run plays for a quarterback that just, frankly, isn't that good at running the ball? Those are all questions that should be answered.
Defensive Line: A-
Due to the injuries at linebacker, Utah played with five down linemen the entire game. They were successful, essentially cutting the Buffaloes’ rushing averages in half. They also put plenty of pressure on Liufau, causing errant passes and just over a 50% complete percentage. Hunter Dimick was credited for half a sack and batted down three passes. Pita Taumoepenu and Chris Hart recovered fumbles. Bradlee Anae notched another sack and a QB pressure in his limited opportunities. Being only a true freshman, Anae will be fun to watch for the next few years.
It appeared that Sunia Tauteoli was not ready to go by kickoff. This left Kavika Luafatasaga alone at linebacker for the majority of the game and I think it was one of his best performances as a Ute. 10 tackles, 8 solo, 2 tackles-for-loss, a pass-breakup and a forced fumble. Short of perfection, but he looked much better, particularly on the outside. He made a couple of great plays, sealing the edge behind the line-of-scrimmage. He also chased down Liufau from the backside which resulted in a fumble and recovery. Poor tackling on a Liufau redzone rushing attempt did result in a touchdown though. Kavika also got a bit lost in zone coverage, allowing a 3rd conversion on a 16 yard catch. Donovan Thompson played a few snaps to relieve the starter.
Sefo Liufau was doing an excellent job looking off Marcus Williams to one side of the field and throwing to the other. Colorado had chunk plays through the air of 42, 37, 30, and 27 yards. Hansen was in coverage on the 37 yard pass play to Macintyre. Williams seemed a bit too eager at times, leaving the other side of the field wide open. Chase Hansen did offer assistance in the box and forced a fumble that was recovered by the Utes. He also led the team with 13 tackles, 10 of which were solo.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the Utes were beat on quite a few deep passes. When Liufau had time to throw is when Colorado had success on offense. The cornerbacks were often in position, but just could not make a play on the ball. Reggie Porter was being picked on all game. Porter and Domo were both called for pass interference. Tyrone Smith made an appearance and was immediately beat on a touchdown fade. Despite all of this, Colorado only scored once through the air, but it could have been worse were it not for the dropped balls by Colorado’s receivers answered. Until they are, things aren't going to improve.
Placekicking Units: B
Andy Phillips missed his first field goal from a long of 45 yards. But he was successful from 22, 22, 23 and also made the lone extra point attempt.
Punting Units: A-
Boobie Hobbs finally breaks through on a return for a touchdown early in the game, which gave the Utes an early boost of confidence. Hobbs was also had another odd return when the Colorado defenders failed to notice there was no signal for a fair catch. He finished with 73 return yards. Mitch Wishnowsky undercut his average by quite a bit this game at 42.3, but he did drop another punt inside the 10 yard line and the Buffaloes weren’t able to return any of them.
Kickoff Units: A-
Kyle Fulks was also able to burst through the Colorado defenders for a 97 yard kick return that fell just short of the touchdown. Considering the offenses’ redzone woes, getting the score really could have helped here. Fulks finished with 115 return yards. Hicken kicked a few touchbacks, but Colorado was able to return a few kicks for 38 yards.