Utah Utes Football: 25 Observations from Saturday's Win over BYU
For the third time in as many years, the Utah Utes defeated the BYU Cougars in the not-so-annual-anymore "Holy War"—a rivalry dating back to 1896. As per usual, the game came down to the final play. To be more specific, the final second. And a long, strange second it was.
Here are 25 observations from the wacky 24-21 win—all focused on the team in red.
While watching the game I couldn't help but notice...
1. Jon Hays is a serviceable starting quarterback.
That is open for interpretation. In his first start of the season—and the 11th of his Utah career—the senior completed 18-of-27 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
2. The Utes miss John White.
The All-American and Doak Walker Award candidate sat out due to an ankle injury. The rushing attack suffered as a result, totaling just 49 yards.
3. There is no clear backup to White.
Jarrell Oliver got the start but shared carries with Kelvin York and Lucky Radley. The trio combined to average 2.1 yards per carry.
4. Utah's depth at tight end is greater than its depth at running back.
On the other hand, the group of tight ends, which goes about five deep, continued to impress. Four different tight ends caught passes, including a nifty one-handed touchdown snag by Weslee Tonga.
5. The receivers and tight ends make the difficult catches look easy, but the easy catches look difficult.
Far too many drops.
6. Kenneth Scott and DeVonte Christopher were nearly invisible.
Just one catch for 14 yards? Not the numbers you expect from these big targets.
7. Scott and Christopher need to be more involved in the offense.
Again, just one catch for 14 yards.
8. New offensive coordinator Brian Johnson has a ways to go in the play-calling department.
Sure he's handcuffed by injuries to key players, but the play-calling was far too predictable. The good news: The season is young, and so is he (only 25 years of age).
9. Travis Wilson is a quarterback, not a runner.
First and foremost, the true freshman is a quarterback. You know, the one that drops back and throws the ball. I don't doubt his ability to run, but it's the element of surprise that has been stripped from his game.
What made Alex Smith so successful was defenses not knowing whether he was going to run or throw the ball.
10. The O-line is improving—be patient.
They surrendered four sacks, but are becoming a more cohesive unit.
11. Star Lotulelei—the entire defensive line, really—is as good as advertised.
He demands double teams and still finds a way to disrupt both the ground and passing game.
12. Lotulelei will be a top-10 pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Mark my words.
13. Remember the name Nate Fakahafua, pronounced fa-ka-hah-foo-a.
He was a force—has been all season long—at defensive end. The sophomore is long, lean and explosive off the edge.
14. Don't forget about the Kruger brothers.
What did Mama Kruger feed those boys?
15. The defense is great at forcing fumbles.
The defense forced four fumbles.
Whose return will impact the Utes most?
16. The defense is not so great at recovering fumbles.
Of those four the defense only recovered one. But cornerback Moe Lee made the most of it, returning it 46 yards for a game-changing touchdown.
17. The secondary is solid but made a major rookie mistake on the Cougars' final drive.
The first page of How to Play Cornerback for Dummies reads, "Never let the receiver get behind you, ESPECIALLY on a 4th-and-long in the final minute of a close game."
18. The Utes miss Brian Blechen.
Welcome back, young man.
19. The Utes miss Eric Rowe.
Hurry back, young man.
20. Reaching further back, the Utes really miss Louie Sakoda—and, to a lesser extent, Joe Phillips.
Sakoda was steady, consistent and clutch—hence the pile of awards he won as a four-year starter. Coleman Peterson, the current placekicker, is the exact opposite.
21. The special teams as a whole are far from special.
On Saturday alone they had a field goal blocked and a punt fiasco and allowed a 34-yard punt return. On the bright side, Lotulelei unofficially blocked a field goal, and Charles Henderson returned a punt 57 yards to set up a short touchdown drive.
22. The M.U.S.S. prematurely rushing the field almost resulted in a L.O.S.S.
Settle down, fans. I understand the excitement: You just beat a rival, your neighbor of no more than 45 miles, in nail-chomping fashion.
But act like you've been there before—because you have.
23. In a sloppy game featuring seven fumbles, 14 punts and 22 penalties, the less sloppy team won.
Sometimes it's beautiful; sometimes it's ugly; but, in the end, a win is a win.
24. Whether in snowy November or sunny September, this game never fails to entertain.
Well, now we know the date of the game has little to do with the entertainment factor.
25. We will miss the Holy War.
Once every few years is just not enough. And I think at least a few of you would agree.
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