5 Things We Learned About the Utah Utes in Their 27-10 Win over Montana State
There were a lot of unanswered questions coming into the season opener for the newest addition to the newly-named Pac-12. We were impressed, but not overly impressed, by the way the Utes handled this game that they were expected to win.
While DeNarius McGhee is no Matt Barkley, we were able to get answers to some of the outstanding questions surrounding Utah’s defense, revamped offense and unproven backfield.
So here’s a recap of what learned from last night’s victory.
1. John White IV Can Run!
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And run he did, with 150 yards on 19 carries—that’s 7.89 yards per carry for you math majors. When you add in a 10-yard dash for a TD and a five-yard receiving TD, you have the makings of a pretty impressive outing!
But perhaps more impressive is the way White ran straight through the tackles, showing power to go along with his exceptional speed. At 5’8”, 185 lbs., this was the biggest question mark, along with the fact that he had zero NCAA carries leading up to this game.
This left many, including yours truly, wondering if the Utes had the backfield to compete in the Pac-12. The answer is yes, for now. However, against the likes of USC, Cal and other Pac-12 foes, White is going to need some help from teammates (senior) Tauni Vakapuna and (redshirt transfer) Karl Williams.
Vakapuna was less than impressive with his 10 carries for 16 yards, and Williams didn’t get a carry in regulation.
So while we’re only talking about one game here, against a Big Sky opponent in Montana State, I do believe the consensus regarding White around here is, “I think we’ve found something special."
2. Utah's Defense Is Fast!
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For a defense returning less than half of their starters from last year, boasting a former safety-turned-linebacker (Brian Blechen) and a former WR-turned-cornerback (Mo Lee), there were many doubts and unanswered questions regarding how this defense would perform.
Well, we got some answers, whether it was Blechen's two Interceptions (I think this guy still thinks he’s a safety), the multiple QB pressures, led by Star Lotulelei, the 10 tackles by defensive stalwart Chaz Walker, or the two sacks from Ryan Lacey and Derrick Shelby respectively.
One thing’s clear, these guys are fast and they came to play! Well, I guess that’s two things. However, since this could be considered a tuneup game against a lesser opponent, I think we’ve only seen the beginning of what these guys are capable of.
They need to correct some of their mistakes—and believe me you, Kilani Sitaki will have these boys cleaning up and eliminating the silly meaningless penalties (yes, I’m talking to you, Lacey). Once that happens, well, I think the rest of the division had better take notice!
Utah Kickers Can Kick
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With Whittingham saying as recently as last week, as published in the Salt Lake Tribune by Lya Wodraska, “It would be me if we had to kick today” and “It’s an adventure” when referring to the search for a starting kicker.
Coach simply said, “We’ve got to get it settled." Well, settled it is, and while nobody’s ready to call walk-on Coleman Peterson the next Louie Sakoda after his three PATs and two field goals, they are ready to call him the starting kicker for the season.
While it remains to be seen how the Utes address the situation with sophomore Nick Marsh, who was awarded a scholarship, the fans can all rest assured that Kyle Whittingham is not the starting kicker!
4. Jordan Wynn Is Well, Jordan Wynn
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While Jordan Wynn’s 15/23 for 101 yards and 2 TD’s weren’t bad, they weren’t overly impressive either.
Considering the fact that Montana State's defense had their hands full with John White's rushing, we should’ve seen a little more from Wynn. However, before we get into a panic, let’s not forget that Wynn and the entire Ute offense is adjusting to Norm Chow’s playcalling (more on that later).
Also, this is Wynn’s first game back after shoulder surgery, and I think we all saw what we expected to see. Going forward it will be important for Wynn to get the timing of this offense down and hit his receivers in stride and on target, which Wynn is more than capable of, as evidenced by his 61-percent career completion percentage and 139.9 passer rating in 2010.
Most important is that Wynn threw zero INTs, and the exchange with DeVonte Christopher looks to have the makings of a promising year for Mr. Wynn and the Utah Offense!
5. Norm Chow's Still Got It!
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Okay, so if anyone was worried after watching Jordan Wynn, and my earlier assessment didn’t appease you, this should. Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Vince Young have all been coached by none other than Norm Chow!
This guy has been coaching since 1973, and has spent five years total coaching in the Pac-10. I believe this was the best offseason move by Whittingham, who is smart enough to know that the best way to win in the new division is to bring in someone who knows the division.
Chow is a perfect fit in Utah, given his ties to the state (played and coached at Utah and BYU respectively), and his knack for getting the most out of his quarterbacks (need I say more than is written above). Chow looks to be the Utes' secret weapon in the new Pac-12.
If you weren’t convinced by the impressive resume above, then all you have to do is turn on that DVR and re-watch the opening series, and maybe the second series. Chow couldn’t have scripted this more perfectly, given that this young team hasn’t had a chance to truly grasp all of the components of this new complex offense.
Coach Chow let them ease into it, producing back-to-back touchdown drives. I know that the defense helped them out a whole lot, and again we’re talking Montana State, but you’ve got to be happy about how things are shaping up. Coaches Whittingham and Chow were not overly satisfied with their team’s performance, but it’s bound to get better!
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