Tom Smart, Deseret News
Things looked so down for Utah three weeks ago after losing its third game in four tries, all of them double-digit losses. After Saturday's blowout win over UCLA, the Utes are as high as a kite.
That's three straight easy wins for Utah, which was anchored once again by quick, hard-hitting defense and a superstar running back in John White IV. White moved into the top five all-time rushers for a single season in the win and the Utah defense outscored the UCLA offense in the game.
OFFENSE -- Can a team really win a game if its quarterback completes just five passes for 67 yards? It can if that same offense has one of the top running backs in the nation. White carried for 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns and Jon Hays and the passing game was once again relegated to the "keep them honest" role. Hey, if it ain't broke, right? GRADE: B+
DEFENSE -- The most uncomfortable person in any stadium in which Utah brings its fearsome defense is the opposing quarterback, followed closely by the opposing team's offensive coordinator. Conroy Black had a pair of interceptions, returning one of those 67 yards for a touchdown, and the defense seemed to relish the snowy conditions. UCLA should have known it was going to be a long game when the Utes Griff McNabb fumbled a punt return inside Utah's own 20-yard line, but the Bruins could net just three yards and a field goal. GRADE: A
SPECIAL TEAMS -- The fumbled punt was a bad play, but the kick coverage on punts and kickoffs was very good and Sean Sellwood seems to have finally won the punter job, averaging 45 yards a punt and dropping a pair of them inside the 20-yard line. GRADE: B
COACHING -- Part of coaching is discipline. As proof, UCLA's embattled coach Rick Neuheisel saw his team commit 12 penalties for 91 yards. Utah had just 35 yards of penalties on four miscues. Aside from a late hit early in the game, Utah played like a very well-coached team. Norm Chow gets a little vengeance on his old bosses at UCLA as well. GRADE: A
OVERALL -- Utes fans would love to have their team throw for 400 yards and five TDs, but on a snow day, having a top-notch defense can be a lot of fun, too. Pick-sixes, helmet-popping hits and frustrated opponents sure can make a fan smiole through chattering teeth. Plus, who know White was going to be THIS good. GRADE: A
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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