Week one has come and gone for the Utah Utes football team. Overall, Utah came out on top with a 27-10 victory over Montana State with no major injuries to report.
Here are the grades for Week 1:
This game was awkward, let’s put it that way. At no point in this match-up did Utah look in any danger of upset and, in fact, grabbed the momentum early and often. However, the offense did look stagnant at times, especially in the second half, and the passing game seemed inconsistent.
Passing – C+
Utah’s passing game was not terrible, contrary to what many have come away from this game thinking. Jordan Wynn was 15 of 23 (65%) with 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The down side comes in the distance category, in which Utah gained only 101 yards.
It was very clear that Utah intended to establish the running game, or at least test what options they had available, and therefore did not appear concerned with passing for long yardage plays down the field. In fact, it seemed only 2 or 3 passes were even attempted over 30 yards downfield.
Running – A-
One of the biggest questions the Utes faced coming out of fall camp was the running situation. Most fans knew that John White IV was the leading candidate to take the majority of the carries, but all wanted to see him in action.
White ran for 150 yards and 1 TD (caught another). Utah’s struggles with the run game in the past has always been the tendency our backs had to try to “push the line” and grind yards out. White’s running style is very Barry Sanders-like in the way he cuts and jukes to hit holes in the O-line and then has the breakaway speed to turn a little into a lot. Very impressed with John White IV.
Tauni Vakapuna took the second string snaps and was inconsistent. Vakapuna is a big strong running back, akin to many of the Ute backs the last few years.
Run Defense – A
Utah’s run defense was just as good as advertised. The Bobcats running backs only produced 75 total rushing yards (longest run was just 13 yards).
Quarterback DeNarius McGhee is perhaps the most mobile quarterback the Utes will face this year but did not struggle with giving up yards to him when plays broke down. The Utes also recorded 2 sacks on McGhee.
Pass Defense – B+
Another huge question mark for Utah was their replacing of all 4 starters at defensive back. With breakout true freshman Brian Blechen moving to stud linebacker this season, eyes were fixed on the pass defense.
McGhee completed only 55% of his passes for 189 yards 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions (both to Blechen). The longest pass play was complete for 47 yards by Elvis Akpla halfway through the 4th quarter on a last effort drive which ended in Blechen’s second interception.
Special Teams – A-
The place kicking game may have been Utah’s #1 concern coming out of fall camp this year. Coach Whittingham has talked about the inconsistency of kickers Nick Marsh and Coleman Petersen.
Petersen was named starter, as he went 2-2 FG and 3-3 extra points. Petersen even drilled a 44 yard attempt, much to the relief of all fans, coaching staff and undoubtedly Petersen himself.
The punt coverage was adequate and the punt return squad blocked a punt deep in Montana State territory and deflected another.
The Utes did just enough to address every offseason concern, as well as limit the play calling to very simple “vanilla” plays that won’t tip USC off during film study, on offense and defense.