It really shouldn't have been this close, but on the other hand, it could have been much closer. The Utes got by UNLV 38-10 on Saturday in a game lacking, excitement, energy, and big plays.
Shaky Smithson was the star of the day on his way to earning Mountain West Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors after returning 5 punts for 128 yards, including a nifty 77 yarder in the third quarter during which he seemed to juke every UNLV player on the field. Smithson also added a 55 yard touchdown catch from Terrance Cain to cap his big day.
Cain filled in admirably for Jordan Wynn, who sat out with a thumb injury, going 13-20 for 207 yards and 2 TDs, but could have had very impressive numbers had he not overthrown a few wide open receivers. Jereme Brooks was instrumental in helping Cain find his feet with a few first half catches, including a touchdown
With Wynn out, the Utes relied heavily on the run for much of the day. Eddie Wide had 15 carries for 77 yards and 2 TDs against his hometown school with Matt Asiata pitching in 9 more carries for 39 yards.
The Utah defense was effective again, showing a bend but don't break mentality throughout much of the game. Led by Chaz Walker and his 16 tackles, they gave up only 3 points themselves, with the other 7 coming off of a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown by UNLV. The run defense was stout, allowing only 102 yards on 42 carries for an average of 2.4 yards per pop.
The pass defense, on the other hand, was having trouble getting pressure on the quarterback, as Omar Clayton had all day to throw, especially in the first half. The Rebels converted multiple third and long situations due to lack of pressure and a few breakdowns in the secondary, something Kyle Whittingham noted in his post game comments.
While the game was never really in doubt, the Rebels had their chances to score. Each time though, the Utah defense would buckle down and put up a wall. If UNLV would have opened up the offense more and let their quarterback continue to make plays, instead of relying on stalled run game, the Rebels could have made this thing much interesting.
The Utes won a game handily against an opponent that was overmatched in every facet. Just another victory on their march towards 8-0 and TCU at Rice-Eccles Stadium in November for the Mountain West Conference Title, a spot in the BCS, and maybe even more.
Grading the Utes after their 56-14 blowout at New Mexico..…