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Utah Utes report card: Special teams steps up

Published: Saturday, Nov. 5 2011 8:21 p.m. MDT

Utah's Conroy Black (9) intercepts the ball in the end zone in front of Arizona's Gino Crump (21) during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Wily Low) (Associated Press) Utah's Conroy Black (9) intercepts the ball in the end zone in front of Arizona's Gino Crump (21) during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Wily Low) (Associated Press)

The big question was whether or not a top-notch Arizona passing team could beat a tough-minded Utah defense. Those two units were pushed Saturday night as the Utah special teams stepped up to star in the game.

Reggie Dunn, Griff McNabb, Coleman Peterson and Sean Sellwood all excelled, along with their special teams teammates in setting the Utes up for their second straight Pac-12 win, 34-21 at Tucson.

OFFENSE -- Jon Hays, Devonte Christopher and Dunn must have loved watching game film this week, probably licking their chops in watching the hapless Arizona defensive backs. It showed on a couple of epic coverage failures as Christopher and Dunn scored on long TD passes. As always, John White IV played big, rushing for 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns and topping the 1,000-yard mark (the ninth Utah player in school history to reach that milestone). Grade: B+

DEFENSE -- The Wildcats passed the ball with relative ease, at least until they reached the red zone. Arizona also ran the ball fairly well, gaining 131 rushing yards and a late TD. But Utah stiffened when it was really needed and the Utes got the play of the game on an interception in the end zone by Conroy Black just when it looked like Arizona might make a game of it. Still, Utah did surrender 457 yards. GRADE: B-

University of Arizona students Derek Limke, left, in a red monkey suit, and Kyle Hendrie, in a blue monkey suit, laugh before a NCAA college football game against Utah at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Wily Low) (Associated Press) University of Arizona students Derek Limke, left, in a red monkey suit, and Kyle Hendrie, in a blue monkey suit, laugh before a NCAA college football game against Utah at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Wily Low) (Associated Press)

SPECIAL TEAMS -- Dunn was spectacular on kickoff returns (except the slip) and a big punt return by McNabb set Utah up for a field goal late in the first half. Meanwhile, Sellwood averaged better than 50 yards a punt and kept the Wildcats pinned deep. Peterson missed a pair of field goals that would have made the lead a little more comfortable in the fourth quarter, but he also made two kicks. As always, the kick coverage was top-notch. GRADE: A-

COACHING -- The game plan was solid, with Hays exploiting the weak defensive backfield of Arizona. White's carries were limited early and it paid off later with his fresh legs in the fourth quarter. Speaking of fresh legs, Kalani Sitake's defensive rotation never gets enough credit. In the second half, the defesnive line did not look tired. The Utes were also in perfect position on a fake field goal in the first half. GRADE: A

OVERALL -- Utah's defense looked vulnerable against Nick Foles and the Wildcats passing game. But unlike the California game, Utah's offense pulled its share of the load. Plus, the special teams seem to win every game. Utah fans can rest easy knowing a bowl bid is possible, even likely at this point. GRADE: B+

Arizona's Juron Criner (82) is dragged down by Utah's Mo Lee, right, during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/John Miller) (Associated Press) Arizona's Juron Criner (82) is dragged down by Utah's Mo Lee, right, during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/John Miller) (Associated Press)

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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