Grading Utah's heartbreaking loss to Washington State

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah learned the hard way Saturday night that early leads do not guarantee a victory, particularly in Pac-12 play and with an opposing quarterback that averages 475 passing yards a game.

Losing a game after a 21-0 first quarter lead is more than disheartening, and does not go unnoticed. Early on in the game, Utah looked like it had the ability for a much-improved season; however, the game got out of hand and Utah was forced to deal with a one-point loss at home.

The following is a grading of Utah’s performance of Saturday night's game.

Offense: D ----------

Where do I begin? Quite frankly, Utah does not deserve a “passing” grade of its performance Saturday night. However, running back Devontae Booker is the only light in a dark performance that pushed Utah’s grade up a notch. Booker was the only player on offense to score points following a first quarter 76-yard rushing touchdown to give the Utes a 21-0 lead. Booker finished with 178 yards and looks to be a viable option in the run game.

Quarterback Travis Wilson had a really rough night. No, he did not throw an interception, but he was far from accurate and failed to go through his progressions before forcing passes. Some, but not all, was a result of the offensive line not giving him the time he needed to make plays. Wilson ended the night going 18-of-38 for 165 yards.

Wilson, too, was not helped by the several dropped passes by his receivers. Senior Dres Anderson was completely absent, failing to grab any of the eight passing attempts thrown his direction. Kenneth Scott and Kaelin Clay had a decent showing, but it was not enough to move the chains or get Utah on the board.

Simply put, it doesn’t matter how deep you are on offense if you can’t utilize the talent you have.

Also, Utah allowed too many penalties to kill drives. In the first half, Utah had at least three drives halted because of a personal foul or some other unnecessary penalty. You can’t win a game when you’re forced to do something on third and 25; it’s just not going to work.

Defense: B-

It’s easy to blame the loss on Utah’s defense because they ultimately allowed Washington State to come back into the game, particularly on two fourth downs that resulted in touchdowns. But absent those two plays, the defense made it extremely difficult for Halliday to get the ball off.

Utah’s defense managed three sacks, nine tackles for loss and two interceptions. Additionally, they forced quarterback Connor Halliday to beat them with small gains instead of the several deep attempts he tried to complete. Unfortunately for Utah, Halliday did just enough to get the win.

Yes, the defense made some mistakes, but those mistakes were not nearly as egregious as that of the offense. The game was lost mostly because Utah’s offense failed to get in the red zone and couldn’t move the chains.

Special Teams: B+

Kaelin Clay continues to be a major threat on special teams. Even after it appears there is nowhere for Clay to go he finds a way to get points on the board. Give him an open field and you’ll regret the decision. Clay gave Utah some early momentum, and captured the attention of all who watched his performance.

Andy Phillips continues to be a bright spot on special teams. He did miss a 46-yard field goal attempt, which could have been the difference in the game, but he continues to make the kicking game a viable option from anywhere on the field. Despite the wind and rain, Phillips kept Utah in the game.

Tom Hackett had another good night, but had a questionable call that nearly backfired on the team. Hackett looked as though he wanted to fake a punt and run for the first down, but quickly saw it would be fruitless and detrimental to the team. Fortunately for Utah, Hackett was able to get the punt off just before defenders were able to block the kick. You have to credit Hackett for trying, but sometimes it’s just better to play it safe.

Overall Team: C-

A C- grade seems very generous considering the feeling of the game. Despite a 21-0 lead to start the game, Utah did not have momentum in the final three quarters of the game. The defense was able to stay the pain momentarily, and Phillips was able to add to the score, but it simply wasn’t enough and Utah got beat.

There were certainly positives in the game, but they are easily clouded and overshadowed by the overall tone of the game.

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Josh Furlong


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