The Morning After: #USUvsUTAH

Scary moments in this game for both teams.  Chuckie Keaton took a hard hit to the knees but managed to walk it off, and Utah lost Travis Wilson to an apparent shoulder/collarbone injury (that Coach Whitt said he doesn’t expect to be season-ending) Hunter Dimick got rolled up on after a tackle and left the game in a knee brace (also not season-ending apparently).  It was a physical contest between teams with a lot to prove in their respective conferences.  That much we expected.

Most of us DID NOT expect a tied score at halftime.  Or for the Utah offensive line to struggle in moving Mountain West D-linemen off the ball.  That unit quite simply has to be better.   Expectations are a hell of a thing, because they are rarely met with any sort of exactitude.  There isn’t a Ute fan on Earth who expected for Andy Phillips and Tom Hackett to be inconsistent, much less slumping.

At first glance, and at second glance for that matter, this Utah team looks like a very talented group that is not performing up to their potential.  But the situation is far from dire.  Two wins over a tough Michigan team and a high quality USU squad came despite both coordinators sticking to relatively simple schemes.  This has me believing that there is at least a somewhat deliberate effort to keep the deeper cuts of the playbook off of game film until at least the Oregon game.  I have my doubt about whether any member of the coaching staff would publicly acknowledge that approach as valid, but something tells me that no stops are being pulled out just yet.

The injuries to Dimick and Wilson are a concern moving forward, but because of quality recruiting and coaching, they aren’t as devastating as they might have been.  I still believe the Utes have two healthy QB’s that can win games in Kendall Thompson and the youngin’ Chase Hansen.  On the defensive side, Kylie Fitts deserves significant praise for his work.  He’s shown explosion off the edge and good hands in the rush, as well as being stout against the run.  My initial thought was that he was more one-dimensional and would be used as a specialist in rush situations like Pita T.  Not the case, he’s an every down player.

Something that IS a valid concern is the lack of performance by the offensive line.  Only double-teams are getting push as the combo blocks work to second level, but there are going to be plenty of situations this year that the Utes simply need the o-line to win battles up front, and right now that isn’t happening.  Hiva Lutui is being rotated in to try and find the best combination of five offensive linemen, but the run blocking is sub-par at this point.

Let’s talk Covey… The kid is special.  Insert whatever superlative statement you want and it probably applies to the freshman spark plug.  But…. As much as we all love Britain Covey,  I said it last week… and on Monday… and during the game tonight…. And I’m saying it again here…. If an undersized freshman slot receiver is your best guy in the ‘throw game’, you don’t have a potent enough passing attack.  Forgive me for being the storm cloud to rain on a really fun story, but the Utes NEED production out of the larger perimeter receivers.  You could make an argument that without Covey Utah might be 0-2 as a result of stalled drives and lack of 3rd down options.  Sure it’s pessimistic conjecture, but can anyone confidently say that somebody else would be doing what he is for the Utes if he wasn’t able to?

I’ve always said you are in a good place as a fan base if you can nitpick.  It means you are winning.  The Utes are doing that right now, despite less-than-ideal play from important position groups.  As fans and observers we have to decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  I’ll stay on the optimistic side of things until we’re given reason not to.

Also; it wouldn’t feel right to finish the blog without a nod to how tough and well-coached the Aggies are.  The SUU game was a fluke.  Utah State will compete with everybody this year, and contend for a championship in their conference on the strength of that defense and a resurgent Chuckie (fingers crossed he stays healthy the rest of the way)

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