Apprehension turned to excitement and optimism then ultimately settled back into disappointment and apprehension. All that describes the Utah offense under new quarterback Jon Hays.
Hays and his offensive teammates looked sharp early and had some fans thinking Jordan Wynn might just be a modern-day Wally Pipp. But the reality of an athletic Pac-12 conference and the speedy Arizona State defense soon overwhelmed Hays and company, leading to a disappointing 35-14 loss Saturday.
OFFENSE -- Impressive drives to start each half had the Utes feeling good. The first, capped by a 40-yard John White IV run, gave Utah a 7-0 lead. The second, aided by a fake punt run by Nick Marsh, ended with a Hays-to-Dallin Rogers TD pass, put Utah up 14-10. Unfortunately, between those two drives there were four punts and two interceptions. And after the Utes took that 14-10 lead, the offense fell apart, turning the ball over on three straight possessions. Rogers was one of the bright spots. GRADE: D
DEFENSE -- It's tough to judge the defense because of the sheer unfairness of the situations it was put in in the second half. Utah held ASU to 10 points in the first half and was very stout against the run, but the Utes just ran out of gas. The defenders have to be asking the offense, "Yo, how about a little help?" Grade: C
SPECIAL TEAMS -- Reggie Dunn is exciting as a kick returner and gave the Utes good field position, even forcing the Sun Devils to squib kick in the second half. The fake punt was fun, but the punt game was unspectacular, both kicking and receiving. GRADE: B
COACHING -- It looked like the coaching staff did what it could to prepare Hays for the big time. He just made some bad throws. The constant man coverage on the big ASU receivers was questionable at best and it really cost Utah late in the game. Teams can man BYU and Montana State on the outside, but not these talented Pac-12 teams. The fake punt was well drawn up and executed. GRADE: C
OVERALL -- Utah was every bit as good as Arizona State. There's no secret that teams have to take care of the football, especially in an evenly matched game. For the second straight week, Utah did not take care of the ball. Despite a lot of good things that happened in the game, turnovers lead to bad grades for the Utes. GRADE: D
Andy Griffin is a southern Utah broadcaster and sports writer and has been involved in covering sports in Utah, including professional, college and high school sports, since 1989.
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