SALT LAKE CITY — For much of the season, Utah’s receiving corps has been subject to a seemingly endless barrage of criticism.
Drops — remember all the drops? — turnovers and lack of production plagued them in losses to Washington and Washington State, not to mention the ugly victory over Northern Illinois.
Name a failing and the Utes’ receiving corps experienced it early in the year and more often than not were bemoaned because of it.
Things began to look up for the corps during the victory over Stanford. Britain Covey and Samson Nacua each had standout performances, but even in that win, the Ute receivers wouldn’t have been characterized as elite.
However, they were just that Friday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Utah’s 42-10 win over Arizona.
The Utes had seven pass catchers in total and recorded 265 yards through the air against the Wildcats, scoring three touchdowns.
Covey led the way with six catches for 51 yards, followed by Demari Simpkins, who had his best outing of the season, arguably the best of his Ute career, with three catches for 78 yards and a score.
Even Tyler Huntley, the passer responsible for most of the yardage — he completed 14-19 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns — got in on the action, hauling in a 58-yard touchdown reception from Covey.
Jaylen Dixon had two catches for 42 yards, Nacua had a pair of catches and a touchdown. It was simply a complete and elite showing for Utah’s receivers and one that was a long time coming.
“It was a relief,” Simpkins said. “Knowing how hard I have worked, knowing how hard this group has worked, tonight was a relief.”
“We knew what we were capable of all along and we were just so close,” Covey added. “We eliminated a couple of those miscues and we are great. I feel a lot of relief and confident in this group.”
Head coach Kyle Whittingham was almost effusive in his praise of the group, as much as he can be that is.
“The receivers, I thought, played very well,” the coach, who with the win has now been a part of 200 wins at Utah, said. “Execution was outstanding. They made some great catches. Jaylen Dixon, Demari Simpkins, Samson Nacua. We got a lot of production out of the receivers. Those guys really stepped up.”
Aside from their overall production — Utah pass catchers accounted for more than 50 percent of the overall offensive output — nothing was more positive than the big-play ability the Utes demonstrated against the Wildcats.
Covey, Simpkins, Dixon, and Huntley all had receptions 20 yards or longer, none longer than Simpkins’ 68-yarder.
The longest touchdown reception of his Utah career, the catch was evidence of what the Utes are capable of.1 comment on this story
“We just needed someone to make the play that would spark us as a receiving corps,” Simpkins said of his touchdown reception. “I knew we were ready to make a big jump. We were going to make more plays. That is what we did tonight. I’m just grateful that I was able to make the play that got that going.”
“It is a blessing to see everyone clicking on one level, everyone playing top-notch,” he continued. “The offense is looking really good.”
For the first time all year, that includes the receivers.