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October 13, 2008The good
The Ute offense was able to move the ball pretty efficiently in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. They didn't really need to in the 1st quarter (defensive/special teams scores), and we can throw out the 4th quarter due to most of the starters being pulled. Corbin Louks appears to be back to his former self, and led all rushers for the Utes with 50 yards.
Ute fans out there that were looking to see more intelligent play from the QB position on Saturday should feel satisfied with the play of Brian Johnson. Johnson was 10-19 on the game with 110 passing yards and no interceptions. Anybody who wants to dog on Johnson for his mistakes this season need only look at his record after returning from shoulder injuries last season; 15-1. Guess what Ute fans? Love him or hate him, Johnson is a winner.
What more can be said about senior tackle Greg Newman? His natural position is strong side end. He has the prototypical body to play end (6-4, 260), but actually plays more like a 300-pound tackle. The second leading tackler on the team, Newman has 35 total for the season, and has racked up 7.5 TFL for 28 yards. Simply put, Newman has been the most valuable player on defense. And if it weren't for Louie Sakoda's game winning kick against Oregon St and various other scoring ways, he would be the most valuable player on the team (an argument that could really go either way).
The fact that the Cowboys out-gained the Utes in offensive yards at first glance appears disconcerting. However, considering the Utes started most of their drives close to or in Wyoming territory, there really wasn't far to move the ball to score most of the time anyway. Combine that with the defensive efficiency and the garbage time stat padding by Wyoming in the 4th and the Utes played a pretty good game.
The wind was definitely a factor in this game, as could be observed starting in the second quarter. The wind at times was so strong that kickoffs required a holder just to keep the ball from falling off the tee. It wasn't entirely obvious however that this was the case until the 4th quarter, when it appeared that somebody spilled a dumpster onto the field and debris could be seen swirling violently around the field.
The most concerning facet of the offense up to this point in the season for the Utes isn't the play of Johnson. The biggest problem plaguing the Ute offense right now is the inconsistent play of the receivers. One needs to only look at the film of the Wyoming game to see David Reed and Jereme Brooks running routes that would make Peyton Manning look like an average quarterback. The guys that do run their routes, Bradon Godfrey and Freddie Brown, cannot create the separation needed to produce the YAC for the big play. The net result is that Johnson has had less to work with and a shorter field. The Utes need Brent Casteel now more than ever, and this next stretch of games will define his career at Utah.
A November to remember?
Consider the fact that Kyle Whittingham is 13-8 combined in October and November since he took over as head coach, and then throw out his 1-3 record in October 2005 and he is 12-5. More recently however, Whittingham went 4-0 in October 2007 and 2-1 in November 2007. The Utes appear to be and traditionally have peaked at the right time of the season, and this year doesn't appear to be any different. Combine that with the fact that the Utes appear to be winning games this year that they weren't winning last year (Michigan, Air Force, Oregon St). With this schedule, last year's team right now would be 4-3. The presence of senior leadership on offense and defense has been a huge factor in this year's success, and the coaching staff appears to have figured out the correct approach for motivating this team. Ute fans now are feeling very excited about the future with a Whittingham regime in it's infancy.
Aiona Key has earned himself more playing time with his blocked punt at the end of the 1st half. Key has proved that he is a playmaker and will be seen on the field more as the season moves on.
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