Utah Utes football report card: Utes D keeps it close

Published: Saturday, Sept. 10 2011 9:00 p.m. MDT

While the Utah Utes showed they belong on the big stage with the likes of Southern Cal, Saturday night's close loss was still frustrating for Utah. With the offense putting together just one sustained drive in the game, Norm Chow's offense is still trying to find itself.

OFFENSE: There's no doubt that Jordan Wynn has great touch and he even put a little zip on a few of the mid-range throws. But he still seems unwilling or unable to throw the deep ball. DeVonte Christopher and Brandon Anderson were spectacular. But the running game was missing in action, excepting the reverse by Reggie Dunn. Three three-and-outs in the second half really hurt, with the last one coming in the final three minutes of the game. Some bonus credit for the drive late in the game to set up a field goal attempt. GRADE: C

DEFENSE: The Utes gave up more than 400 yards of offense, but played inspired late in the game, ostensibly keeping Utah in the game. Big hits, forced turnovers (two of them in the red zone) and timely sacks kept the game interesting.What Utah lacks in strategy at times is made up for with incredible athleticism. GRADE: B+

SPECIAL TEAMS: The kickoffs and punting teams for Utah were superior in this game and continually gave Utah an advantage in field position. Nick Marsh averaged better than 40 yards per punt and placed four balls inside the 20-yard line. Dunn also averaged more than 30 yards per kickoff return. But a blocked field goal deflates any balloon of special teams happiness. GRADE: B

COACHING: The game plan was solid for the Utes, nickle-and-diming on offense and making big hits and saving tackles on defense. Still, not having Harvey Langi ready (his first carry of the season was late in this game when John White got injured) really hurt. Also, early in the second quarter the Utes coaching staff elected to go for it on fourth and one from the 25-yard line. Wouldn't that field goal have come in handy later in the game? GRADE: B

OVERALL: The first PAC-12 game in Utah history ends in a loss. That's the bottom line. But for those into moral victories, Utah hung with the mighty USC Trojans in the L.A. Coliseum. That's something to hang your hat on. It hurts to lose, but most of the Utes should feel positive about this performance going into a ball game next week against the school from down south. GRADE: B-

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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