University of Utah Game 4 – @ Arizona State

Chris Enger is a well-known name in the podcasting circuit as host of three shows: The BYUofU Show, The RSL Show, and also on Soccer Newsday. Each show is awesome in its own respect. If you’ve thought of becoming a soccer fan, and more specifically an RSL fan, you need to check out the RSL Show podcast. He makes soccer very accessible to the newbie fan. He is going to provide our loyal Ute fans with a weekly insight into the Utes next game. Check him out @fuegote and @RSLShow

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Utah @ ASU – Game 4

“Well how about that, a nut.” ~Blind Squirrel

I’m not going to toot my own horn about my pick last week but I was nearly there with the score but pretty much on point with what happened between the Utes and Cougars. It was a defensive battle, the U scored a defensive touch down and held on to a 3 point lead after what can only be described as an ending only fitting of this amazing rivalry.

In fact, I think I’ve come around from someone who wasn’t for playing the rivalry any more to a rivalry game proponent who wants to see the game annually even if the U never truly beats the Y (the Y only beats themselves after all).

What was ironic about the second to last meeting before a two year break was the game was a microcosm of so many rivalry memories rolled up into one beautiful football extravaganza. Almost a fumble in the end zone to start the game, 4th and 12 conversion in the final minute, a blocked field goal at the end of the game, a doinked field goal to end the game. I love that this game had multiple endings as well as the many rushings of the field.

I’m not a fan of rushing the field, but for some odd reason the winning home team has rushed the field every year since 2000. In face in 2006 when Beck hit Harline in the back of the end zone, BYU fans rushed the field at Rice-Eccles.

What a game (sorry my Cougar fan friends; it must have been a nut punch).

So now the Utes are happy again heading into PAC 12 play against Arizona State. 2 – 1 feels much better than 1 – 2, especially if it’s on the heels of a rivalry win.

The Utes now travel to Arizona State to open PAC 12 play on Saturday night at 8:00 pm. Instead of seeing crazy old Uncle Dennis on the opposite sideline this year, Kyle Whittingham will see a familiar face, Todd Graham.

Kyle faced Todd in the 2006 Armed Forces Bowl where the Utah defense controlled much of the game before allowing Tulsa back in the game near the end. The Utes won that contest 25 – 13 (and let’s be honest, Utah Saint Eric Weddle won that game).

The Utes then faced Graham again last year when Utah travelled to Pittsburgh to play the Panthers of Pitt. In what can only be argued as probably the ugliest game in 2011 for any team on the face of the planet, the Utes won 26 – 14 off of White IV’s 171 yards.

So here we are, 2012, Graham and Wittingham, round 3!

Utah Offense

Say what you want about Mr. Jon Hays, the D-II backup quarterback, but all he has done at Utah is improve when given the opportunity. He went from being a special kind of awful to a QB that didn’t turn the ball over once last week against a fast, aggressive BYU defense.

His 200 yards last week was efficient but take into consideration that he had receivers drop passes that would have had him pushing 250 yards against BYU. No interceptions, 0 fumbles which is vast improvement from last year. Amazing how much better a quarterback looks after 4 weeks with the playbook versus 56 years with a playbook.

If White IV is back they need a big game from him to open up the secondary for the plethora of big receivers and tight ends. What I haven’t really noticed a lot this year is White having many opportunities to follow the big full back, Max Moala. As good as White IV is in his shiftiness, he needs the hogs up front and Moala to create some openings to allow White IV to break from the pack (har har).

The offensive line looked much better against a stellar BYU defense. They’ll need another good game from true freshman Jeremiah Poutasi and the rest of the front five to give Hays and White the time and space to get the offense going. The offense is still the weakness of the team and this must be corrected against a somewhat stingy Arizona State defense.

I say somewhat stingy as ASU has padded up their defensive stats similarly to Utah by playing a first game cupcake. Playing a much more dynamic team in Missouri, ASU only gave up 318 yards, so the offense will need to be on top of their game.

Defense

There isn’t much I can say about the defense other than it is awesome. Yes they gave up 21 points to BYU but two of those three scores come from Utah special teams giving BYU extremely short fields to work with.

Star, the Kruger Duo and the rest of the defensive front have been stellar this year. Star had an amazing game and must be chomping at the bit after watching what Missouri’s front line did to Arizona State’s offensive line.

The biggest question mark is the mobility at the quarterback position. ASU’s Kelly threw for 178 yards last week but also ran for 59 (and he’s a tad bit healthier than Riley Nelson and can hit a receiver down field). The linebackers and defensive backs will have plenty to contain this Saturday night.

Thank heavens the bee keeper (or buzz keeper depending on where you stand on the rivalry) returns this week to shore up a safety position that was starting the backups since Keeper’s suspension and Rowe’s hamstring injury.

Never pick against the Utah defense, and Whittingham has Graham’s number when it comes to the defensive side of the ball.

Special Teams

The continuing question mark is the special team play. Special teams is so completely and utterly inconsistent that its inconsistency is the only consistent part about them.

Last week they convert a fourth and short but have a punt blocked later in the game. Sellwood was the leading punter in the nation going into last week and then proceeds to shank a punt at the worst time. Petersen kicks a 48-yard field goal but has a 32-yard field goal blocked. The punt team pinned down the BYU offense inside the 10-yard line three times while giving up several extended returns on kick-offs.

I worry this game comes down to a field goal because if it does, it’s a coin flip what happens next.

The Utah defense does its job while Brian Johnson and his offense continue to improve. Hays gives the offense a better opportunity to score and get all involved (Hays hit 11 different receivers last week).

Utah wins another close game in Tempe 24 – 20.

 

 

 

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