It was unfortunate that referee Jack Follard was removed from the game after colliding with a player on the second-half kickoff of Utah's Pac-12 opener at Arizona State.
Whether or not Follard was calling the game, however, wouldn't have spared Utah (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) from one of its most woeful performances in many seasons, a 37-7 defeat at Arizona State (3-1, 1-0). The Utes' scorching loss marked arguably their worst display since getting shellacked 47-7 by TCU on Nov. 6, 2010, in Salt Lake City.
OFFENSE: Quarterback Jon Hays was humiliated by the Sun Devils last season, in the first Utah start of his career, when he threw three interceptions. This year, Hays (10-of-15, 117 yards, one touchdown, one interception) may have been more effective in connecting with his receivers. Most just didn't go very far. As a result, Utah offered a 4-of-14 performance on third downs as Arizona State gained 24 first downs to Utah's 10. It didn't help that 2011 All-Pac 12 running back John White IV (14 carries for 18 yards) was ineffective in his return after sitting out last week's chaotic win over BYU. Junior Kelvin York was certainly a bright spot in White's stead, receiving the call 13 times on the ground for 86 yards. He was perhaps the greatest positive the Utes can emphasize leaving Tempe. The inverse: three turnovers, including two fumbles. Utah was outgained 512-209 in the same city where the program enjoyed massive offensive success in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. GRADE: D+
DEFENSE: Perhaps the best debate from this contest was whether the Utah offense or defense played more awfully than the other. That's the conversation when the defense gives up 326 passing yards and three aerial touchdowns to Taylor Kelly, who made just the fourth start of his career. The Utes also forced no turnovers whatsoever. Nearly one-third of ASU running back D.J. Foster's career carries (10) may have come Saturday against the Utes, but in gaining 70 yards, he made the most of them. No Ute defensive back continually had an answer for Sun Devil receivers Rashad Ross and Chris Coyle (five receptions apiece for 149 total yards). This unit could have ended up in worse shape had ASU not committed eight penalties. GRADE: D+
SPECIAL TEAMS: With an average of 46.5 yards per punt, Tom Hackett certainly was effective in giving possession back to the Sun Devils. However, nothing else stood out on the Utah side. GRADE: B7 comments on this story
OVERALL: The program must be enormously disappointed with such a poor performance a week after beating BYU. Who would've thought the Utes would have been so flat, so lethargic and so hapless against a team with which they were prognosticated to compete with? White IV must find his groove — or get healthier, if that's the dilemma. Between last fall and this season, Hays may never have been expected to sustain an offense this long, but he still hasn't undergone multiple surgeries to the same body part as Jordan Wynn did. Hays must be more of a downfield threat. Between those two key players and an improved performance mainly from Utah's defensive backfield, substantial improvement must be made if the Utes expect to be a top Pac-12 team. GRADE: D+
Rhett Wilkinson attends Utah State University and is the co-founder of Aggie BluePrint, the first USU student magazine. He's previously been an intern for the Deseret News. Feel free to contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @wilklogan