Who was good, who was bad, and what was ugly in the Utes nail biter over the Cougars?
Utes Taken Behind Woodshed By Boise State
This game was eerily reminiscent to the TCU game earlier this year. Take out the four turnovers that the Utah defense forced against Boise State, and you're looking at a comparable score to the loss the Utes took at the hands of the Horned Frogs back in November. It wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicated, and by the second quarter, this thing was over. My dad called me just before the half when it was still close and he asked what Utah needed to do to get back in the game. My response, "Nothing. It's over, and it's only going to get uglier." You could see it. One team was outclassing the other and there was no way Utah was going to win this thing, and that's exactly what happened.
Is there any doubt that this team goes as Jordan Wynn goes? Terrance Cain is a fine quarterback, but I've said it time and time and again: he can beat every team on the Utah schedule, but he won't beat TCU… and Boise State is pretty much the same thing as TCU. A high profile, nationally elite opponent.
Cain did his best, but he didn't get any help from his receivers. The number of drops, on easy catches that would have resulted in, or led to points was unbelievable. Two seniors in Shaky Smithson and Jereme Brooks, in their final game as Utes, made big mistakes and cost the Utes a chance at hanging in there.
The offensive line play didn't help as they were beat over and over again. The absence of John Cullen at left tackle was glaring as Sam Brenner was beaten like a rented mule consistenly and not a single one of the five starters played well. Cain was running for his life throughout the game.
Preparation. The players were prepared, but the coaches weren't. The offensive play calling was horrendous and the 11 rushing attempts between Asiata and Wide was unbelievably baffling. In my game preview I said that Matt Asiata needed the ball, and he needed it a lot for two reasons: control the clock to win the time of possession battle by at least 8 minutes, and to limit the number of possessions Boise State gets. Utah lost the time of possession battle by 6:20. 14:20 worse than I said they needed.
Kicking the field goal when down by 20 in the fourth quarter didn't make any sense. Make it and you're still down by three scores. Miss it and it's still three scores. I know it was 4th and 18, but take a chance.
The tackle by the kicker on Dunn on opening kickoff of second half was maybe the biggest play of the game. If he takes that back, the Utes are in it and we're got a game. Instead, he's tackled, and Cain is sacked on the next play. Two plays later Shaky Smithson fumbles (inexplicably), and the Utes lose all momentum. Just like the TCU game. Once that happened, you knew the game was over.
The Jereme Brooks penalty in the first quarter was big as well. The Utes likely would have punched in at that point and taken a 7-0 lead changing the whole landscape of the game if that penalty had not been called. I've looked at the play multiple times and read the rule regarding eligible receivers, but don't completely understand why the penalty was called. If anyone can clarify it for me, please do.
Changes need to be made offensively. Aaron Roderick suddenly lost his balls at some point between the end of October and the beginning of November. Roderick isn't going anywhere, but some sort of shakeup needs to be made on the offensive staff. Maybe letting Dave Schramm go and giving Roderick all of the power is the right move. Maybe a new offensive philosophy needs to be installed. The Utes were completely ineffective against any defense with a pulse this year and in big games. Almost every week in the Pac 12 is going to bring a big game and an opponent with a good defense. The play calling against Boise State was absolutely disgusting in the second half.
The poor defense. They were much better than the 543 total yards would indicate, forcing four turnovers, blocking a field goal, and attempting to keep the Utes in the game. The defensive line did a pretty good job of holding the line and shutting down the running game for the most part. The linebackers were very good in run support for most of the night and the Walker interception was huge at the time. Take away the 84 yard run by Doug Martin and the Ute defense did a pretty good job of making the Boise offense throw the ball.
The only problem with making them throwing the ball was Kellen Moore plays quarterback for Boise State and he gets to throw the ball to Austin Pettis, Tyler Shoemaker, and Titus Young. The Utah corners were used, abused, and thrown away, while the safeties weren't much better.
Brian Blechen. You have a lot to learn still. The 84 yard touchdown run was a very nice run by Martin. But where the hell was Blechen? He took an awful angle at Martin and the Broncos never looked back. He did make a great play by forcing the fumble and a touchback after Tap-Tap was burned, though. Justin Taplin-Ross beaten so badly on that play that he should have just stayed off of the field.
Brandon Burton may have hurt his draft stock. If Burton's house was missing any holiday flare before, it should be covered now after Austin Pettis lit him up like a Christmas tree. It was a bad day all around for the secondary.
While it didn't end the way all of us were envisioning, Utah still ended up playing in a decent bowl and pulling off ten wins. We'll have more on this team and where they go from here in our state of the program piece in the coming days, but Ute fans can't be too disappointed, because this outcome should have been somewhat expected. Boise State was just a better team. I'm still of the thought that they would beat every single team in the country on a neutral field. I'm not saying that they should be playing for the national championship. They blew it on the field with the loss to Nevada, and the three undefeated teams remaining are all more worthy due to their perfect regular seasons, but if I had to put money on one team to beat every other team in the country in one game, it'd be the Broncos.
*One quick note about the announcers. I think Brent Mussberger and Kirk Herbstreit are the best in the business when it comes to calling a game, but Mussburger was awful. He was unprepared and uninformed. If you're going to call a big game like this, do your homework beforehand, or let me call the game. Herbstreit on the other hand was great. Along with Fox Sports' Petros Papidakis, he's the best color-commentator in the game.*
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