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Adam Fondren, Deseret News
Utah Utes linebacker Donavan Thompson (3) reacts after sacking the West Virginia quarterback at the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl between the Utah Utes and the West Virginia Mountaineers in Dallas Texas on Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017.

It wasn't always pretty, but the defense dominated West Virginia to give Utah a 30-14 victory in the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Special teams didn't live up to what we've come to expect under Kyle Whittingham, and the offense was a bit bumpy. But the defense didn't leave any room for doubt in this one.

Here's Utah's grades for this game:


The offense wasn't always pretty in this one, but it got the job done. Zack Moss started off the scoring with a 58-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Tyler Huntley had his ups and downs. On the one hand, he had two touchdown runs and made a few plays with his feet. However, he wasn't on the same page for several plays with Moss and his wide receivers. He fumbled the ball on a read-option look with Moss. That said, Huntley's wide receivers didn't do him many favors as they had several drops.

While it wasn't a work of art, the offense scored more than enough to get the win.

Grade: B-


There's no doubt what won this game, and that was Utah's stiffing defense. Yes, West Virginia was without its starting quarterback Will Grier due to a broken finger. But there's no doubt the Utes dominated the Mountaineers with their defense.

Utah forced three turnovers and eight three-and-outs while holding West Virginia to just 29 yards rushing and just 153 yards of total offense. The Mountaineers moved the ball on just two drives. Lowell Lotulelei finished his career at Utah with two more sacks. Julian Blackmon had two big picks, including one right after West Virginia recovered an onside kick, which won him the MVP award for the game.

While West Virginia wasn't at full strength offensively, there's no denying that Utah's defense simply ruled the day.

Grade: A

Special teams

The Utes are usually so solid on special teams, which makes Mitch Wishnowsky's fumble on a punt deep in Utah territory so puzzling. West Virginia converted the turnover into a field goal.

And that wasn't the only lapse on special teams on the day. Marcus Simms had a 41-yard kickoff return for West Virginia. On the other side, Demari Simpkins had a 6-yard kickoff return that pinned the Utes inside the 10. The Utes gave up an onside kick

It wasn't all bad for the Utes as Lou Groza Award winner Matt Gay added three more field goals to his impressive run. Boobie Hobbs had a nice 23-yard punt return. Still, this performance wasn't what we've come to except from a Kyle Whittingham-coached special teams.

Grade: C-


There were a few times that offensive coordinator Troy Taylor got a bit too cute with the play calling, including some trick plays that didn't work at all. Still, Whittingham's game plan worked well against the Mountaineers. It's hard to argue against a coach who has won 11 out of 12 of his bowl games.

Grade: A-


While the defense dominated, things were a bit ugly on offense and special teams. However, the Utes weren't in real danger of losing this one for almost the entire game. Utah ends 2017 on a positive note and will look ahead to 2018.

Grade: B+