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What has been the story so far of the 2010 season for the University of Utah? Are the Utes ready for the last five games of the season that has been lurking on the schedule? Well let me tell you...
The Utes have simply out played every opponent so far this season. Save the first game of the season against Pitt, the Utes have looked like a top 25 team in all aspects of the game. However, Utah fans have gotten accustomed to seeing Coach Whit after every game thinking of something that the Utes need to improve on. This is part of his job description. Part of being a head coach is having a "never satisfied' mentality. But, he's right. Each and every game, there has always been something that leaves coaches and fans alike thinking, "we got to get that cleaned up," whether it's the offense, defense, or special teams. The Utes have yet to play a "complete" game this season. The "complete" game is the game that Coach Whit always preaches to his players. The "complete" game could be defined as a game where the offense is able to move the ball efficiently with zero turnovers. The defense has 6 explosive plays (sacks/interceptions). Special teams are able to produce big changes in field position with no penalties and the team overall plays with passion and emotion. The Utes are 6-0 so far this season, and have yet to play a "complete" game.
Offensively, the Utes have been improving each and every week. Jordan Wynn had a minor setback missing a couple games because of injury, but since has bounced back. He has also proven himself a leader on and off the field. Ute fans can also rest easy knowing that the right guy is behind Center. The games that Wynn missed, Terrance Cain proved that we he was more than able to be the starting Quarterback; however, Wynn is the guy for the job. The two-headed monster that is Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata has been producing as expected while sharing carries. JB (Jereme Brooks), D-Chris (Devonte Christopher), and Shaky Smithson have had their moments producing from the Wide Receiver position. The starting offensive line hasn't allowed a sack so far this season, which is a fantastic achievement for the offensive line. Very few teams in the nation could claim that stat. The big surprise from the offense this season is Reggie Dunn. This out-of-nowhere speedster has obviously been more a part of the offensive game plan each and every week. Dunn brings an explosive/big play potential that the Utes really have never had in the Coach Whit Era.
Defensively, the Utes have been solid. It has started up front with the Defensive-line. The defensive line has been able to control the line of scrimmage in every game allowing the players behind them make plays. The beneficiaries of the defensive line's play have been the linebackers. Chaz Walker, Matt Martinez, and Chad Manis all need to thank the d-line each and every day, for they have made their lives easier. The biggest question mark coming into this season was the linebackers, and this defensive group has proven to be one of the strengths of the defense. The defensive backs have played as well as expected. Lamar Chapman leads the team in sacks. Brandon Burton has shut down every receiver he's faced. Blechen has been enforcing the defensive backfield. Overall the most impressive part of the defense so far this season, is its ability to shut down teams in the red zone. The Utes have tightened up in the red zone and holding teams to little or no points.
Shaky Smithson has emerged as a weapon that the Utes have heavily relied on. Shaky has teams working overtime of thinking of ways of how they are going to keep the ball out of his hands. If teams decide to punt the ball, Shaky will continue to make them pay with big returns. If teams decide to punt away from him, it will only raise the chances of bad punts, leading to great field position for the Utes. Shaky's impact will prove itself in future games down the stretch.
Now this Saturday a 6-0 Utah team faces a 2-5 Colorado St team, a team that is coming off a win over UNLV 43-10. The question is, I guess, should the Utes be scared of that 43 point performance? The answer is a resounding no. However, from the coaches perspective the Utes are little scared. You can be sure that the University of Utah coaches and players have watched film a little more intently this week to make sure that a 43 point performance is not an encore presentation against the Utes. The truth of the matter is Colorado St. isn't very good. The Utes shouldn't have a problem with this team. The first real challenge awaits the Utes in Colorado Springs on Saturday, October 30 against Air Force. This is where the Utes will show off the benefits of having seven warm-up games leading up to the bulk of their season.
The Utes, after a 7-0 start, should hopefully be ready to play that "complete" game. To put things in to perspective, the Sugar Bowl Champion 2008 team didn't really play a complete game until game 11 of the season against San Diego St. We all know what happened after that game. The Utes moved on to dismantle the team down south at home, and surprise the over-confident Crimson Tide.
Ute Nation can only hope it won't take until game 11 for this year's team to work out all the kinks and play a "complete" game. Look for the Utes to be ready to take on the last five games of the season head on.