Utah Football: 5 Positives the Utes Can Take into the BYU Game
After a heartbreaking loss at USC, the Utes are looking for some positives to take into the Holy War this week at BYU. It appears that after a loss to USC and a shaky win against Montana State, there isn't much to cheer about in Ute Nation.
Upon closer examination, however, there is plenty of silver lining to go around that should have Ute fans and players excited and optimistic for this weekend.
Jordan Wynn Improved
Jordan Wynn should feel lucky he didn't have at least one or two of his knuckle-ball floaters returned for six against USC, but overall, he made modest improvements from Week 1 against Montana State.
He threw twice as many passes and took a few more shots down field, though, I wouldn't say he's where he needs to be as far as yards-per-pass.
For the most part, and as long as he wasn't hurried, Wynn played mistake-free football and still has yet to turn the ball over. As with every game, protecting Wynn will be the biggest factor for the Utes vs. BYU.
Devonte Christopher Shined; Dres Anderson Emerged
At last! Ute fans have been waiting since last year for wide receiver Devonte Christopher to break out as the go-to guy out wide for Utah.
Christopher led Utah in receiving with 11 receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown. Also noteworthy is the fact that he outplayed star USC receiver Robert Woods.
After hearing all summer about the potential Utah freshman wide receiver Dres Anderson has, he finally gave us a glimpse of what is in store for the future. Anderson had six grabs for 77 yards, and were it not for some happy feet that got ahead of himself, he could have had many more yards from yards-after-catch. With his speed, it is extremely important Jordan Wynn finds him in BYU's backfield.
The Offense in General Improved
14 points isn't much to cheer about. But anyone who watched the Utah game Saturday night could see that the Ute offense was more consistent from start to finish.
As before mentioned, quarterback Jordan Wynn, as well as wide receivers Dres Anderson and Devonte Christopher, played better. But the offense in general played better as a whole. Running back John White IV struggled against an extremely fast and disciplined USC front seven. He still did, however, have a touchdown and a somewhat productive day with 56 yards rushing.
Against FCS opponent Montana State, Utah had a total of 292 yards and 16 first downs. Against a much better defense in Pac-12 powerhouse USC, the Utes totaled 319 yards of offense and 19 first downs. Again, not loads of improvement, but if you take the two opposing defenses into consideration, there was significant improvement.
The Defense Made Huge Plays
Utah's defense didn't look quite stellar Saturday night, but they did make some big plays to keep the game close enough for the offense to win. Against a team like USC, that's all most teams can ask for from their defense.
Utah cornerback Ryan Lacy came up with a diving interception in the red zone to keep the score close, and linebacker Brian Blechen forced a fumble in Ute territory as the Trojans were making a long third-quarter drive.
Limiting star quarterback and former No. 1 overall high school recruit Matt Barkley to a modest line of 264 yards passing, one touchdown and an interception was a positive, especially after watching Barkley throw for 304 yards and three scores versus Minnesota the week before.
Utah's defensive line and linebackers didn't do a good job filling the gaps in the run game for USC in the first half and will have to do a bit better this week against BYU's tandem of running backs. But on a positive note, Utah did hold USC's offense scoreless the final 24 minutes of the game.
BYU's Offense Has Underachieved
While BYU has played decent teams from power conferences, the Cougars came into this season with BCS aspirations, especially after quarterback Jake Heaps came on so strong at the end of the 2010-11 season. However, Heaps has been noticeably disappointing early on this season.
The offense in general has really only put together two halves of good football, being completely shut out in the first half versus Ole Miss and only scoring on a field goal against Texas in the second half of the game last weekend.
Heaps has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, and the BYU running backs are averaging less than 2.5 yards per carry. The running game has also yet to score.
Either way, the Utes and Cougars are both struggling on offense and both defenses are playing well. Both teams also have a 1-1 record. So while they no longer are in the same conference and playing for the same championship, they are about as even as can be headed into the Holy War.
However, if a team like Texas, with three different quarterbacks and average running backs, can beat BYU, I see no reason the Utes can't, either.