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ANN ARBOR, Michigan — Utah did exactly what it needed to do to take the next step forward in progressing as a Pac-12 team as they beat Michigan 26-10 at the Big House.
The game had its ups and downs, including a rain delay that suspended play for about more than two hours, but Utah was in control as they improved to 3-0 on the season and prepare for Pac-12 play.
The following is a game-day grading of the offense, defense, special teams and team as a whole.
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The offense struggled to move the chains against a stout Michigan defense, particularly in the first half of the game. However, the offense was able to move the ball well enough to put some points on the board. Travis Wilson was 14-of-20 for 172 yards and one touchdown, despite missing some of the second quarter after sustaining an injury.
Kendal Thompson threw an interception to give Michigan an easy touchdown, but fared well in the rest of play, going 4-of-7 for 33 yards. Thompson’s presence was mostly felt by initiating a change in pace on the offense, giving Utah some hope in the second quarter.
Although Utah got the win, Utah’s offense still has a way to go. Call it road game jitters or being overwhelmed by the Big House, but the offense wasn’t completely 100 percent. There’s nothing to worry about, though, because the offense was able to do enough to get the win.
The defense was nearly as good as can be expected. An “A” grade could be given, but there were a few moments where Utah’s defense got caught sleeping and allowed Michigan to drive the ball easily. But that’s the only reason for a slip in the grade.
Gionni Paul made his first appearance as a Ute and he didn’t disappoint. Many thought he’d have some rust after missing football since spring, but Paul’s presence was easily felt. He finished the game with 14 tackles, a big interception in the second half and a fumble recovery after the game delay. Paul punished the Michigan offense and was a much-needed returner for Utah’s depleted linebacking unit.
Also having big day were linebacker Jared Norris (nine tackles and two sacks), Nate Orchard (seven tackles, two sacks, one pass breakup and a QB hit), Brian Blechen (four tackles, three pass breakups, one QB hit and one interception) and Tevin Carter (four tackles, one pass breakup and an interception).
Is there any reason to doubt Utah’s special teams unit with Kaelin Clay, Andy Phillips and Tom Hackett on the field? Clay had another special day, returning a 66-yard punt to the end zone to give the Utes a 10-3 lead. Andy Phillips made four deep field goals — 35, 38, 48, and 50. Phillips did have a missed 41-yard field goal attempt, but we’ll blame that on the inclement weather.
It’s hard to be too critical on a team that went to the Big House and got a nice victory over a Big Ten team. While Utah still has things to work on, it’s a positive sign for a program looking to return to a bowl game this season.