Alright, fine!!!! I’m on board the Travis Train. As I write this Utah is smashing Oregon 48-13. A tough defensive performance has the Ducks reeling, and when we talked about it in pre-game, I said that was a possibility. I even picked the Utes to win! By a narrow margin… Instead We all sat down and were treated to an absolute treat of (can’t even believe I’m saying it) offensive genius. Aaron Roderick called a perfect game. Jim Harding helped plan a perfect game. Travis freaking Wilson made every correct read, audible, and adjustment en route to the best overall offensive performance Utah football has seen in a decade.
Where did this come from?
If you’ve been listening to the show, you have heard me talk about the deliberately Vanilla game plans on both sides of the ball for Utah. That was a bold and risky tact for the coaching staff against teams like Michigan and Utah State (sorry Fresno). It’s certainly a testament the faith they have in the talent they’ve recruited, but it’s also risky because there was no guarantee that an expanded playbook and some trickeration would translate against Oregon. In other words, the Utes saved their best bullets without full knowledge of whether those bullets would be effective. That’s the kind of confident, competent, A-Grade coaching Utah fans have waited for and wanted for years, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.
Oregon’s DB’s were woefully bad in their communication and combos in zone coverage. A-Rod and company clearly saw that on film and ran route combinations designed to confuse, with overlapping cross routes or outside receivers running comebacks in the flat while slot guys snuck behind coverage as safety and corner made clunky transitions. Travis knew it, exploited it, and got to sit down early and celebrate a blowout win because of it. At AUTZEN stadium. Starters rested. Unreal.
I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that Travis’ performance is extra-impressive because of the fact that he came into the game banged up. His non-throwing shoulder clearly caused serious pain throughout the contest, but he dealt with it and led his team to the most significant regular season victory the program has ever seen.
We talked about confidence/swagger/reputation and how it effects in-game performance this week. Watch the game again and you’ll see Utah started confident, and finished with something close to an air of invincibility. You’ll also see Oregon’s swagger evaporate quickly on the home field at Autzen. I’m interested to see how the Ducks bounce back from this performance. They, more than any other team in the Pac-12 rely on the mythos surrounding their speed and athleticism. A bubble-bursting beatdown like the one the Utes handed down can have lasting effects if team leadership doesn’t address it correctly.
Fans aren’t going to want to hear me say this, but Utah also needs to address the long-term impact of this game correctly. Utah is 4-0, heading into the bye week and coming off of a massive win over a traditional Pac-12 power. BUT, now is certainly not the time to celebrate a successful season or the arrival of the team as a contender. Yes the game announces that Utah at its best is a formidable team capable of beating anybody in all 3 phases. But this is where Coach Whitt’s Captain-No-Fun mentality pays dividends. While the fan base crows about the greatness of a team they already believed in, the team itself will put their heads down and get to work in preparing for an undefeated Cal. Beating Oregon in raucous fashion is fantastic. Worth celebrating. But let’s not do something crazy like make a premature celebratory rap video if you know what I’m saying.