Thoughts From the Gridiron: Utah vs. BYU

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Jack Gambassi

University of Utah’s Brant Kuithe (#80) gets tackled during the game versus the BYU Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, UT on Sept 11, 2021. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The University of Utah football team suffered their first loss against the BYU Cougars since 2009 on Saturday night. Nothing went right for Utah in Provo, and the Cougars snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Utes. Utah looked lost on both sides of the ball for the majority of this game, and have a lot to work on if they want to live up to expectations this year.

Offense

The offensive line did not do quarterback Charlie Brewer many favors tonight, as he was consistently pressured and did not have much time to throw. Brewer’s passes were on target when he had the chance to throw them, but those opportunities did not come nearly often enough. An early interception by Brewer was his worst decision of the season so far, but, other than that, this loss was not his fault.

Micah Bernard emerged as the lead back today, grabbing 146 rushing yards and a touchdown. Tavion Thomas fumbled in the first half, making that two fumbles in two games for him. Following his turnover, he didn’t see much action the rest of the night. Chris Curry didn’t do anything aside from a kick return, and TJ Pledger only had one carry and one reception. Look for Bernard to be the unquestioned lead back for the foreseeable future.

Utah’s receivers did not have a good night. The tight end group was solid, as Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid combined for 73 of Utah’s 147 passing yards. Bernard was a weapon in the passing game as well. Theo Howard finished with 21 yards, but none of the other wide receivers did anything substantial, and Utah’s offense looked clunky as a result.

Defense

Utah’s defensive line was similar to their offensive line: ineffective. BYU quarterback Jaren Hall did anything and everything he wanted, grabbing 149 passing yards, 92 rushing yards, and three touchdowns. Hall faced little to no pressure all night, giving him plenty of time to throw. Running back Tyler Allgeier also broke free from a lot of tackles that should have brought him down, extending drives for the Cougars and racking up 102 rushing yards in the process. 

Utah failed to rise to the occasion on third downs, and BYU converted 11 of their 19 tries. Utah was just 2 for 9. Utah also didn’t force a single turnover in this game after giving up two of their own early on. Utah had zero sacks on the night. BYU had possession for 35 of the 60 minutes, outgained Utah in both passing and rushing yards and made the big play every time they needed to. All of that, coupled with a huge night from Hall, made this game impossible to win for the Utes. 

Positive Takeaways

Brewer was confident when he had the time to throw and aside from the one interception put together a solid game. If Utah can find more consistent pass protection for him, he’s capable of putting together some really huge nights moving forward.

Bernard solidifying himself as the lead back is nice in terms of establishing some consistency. Head coach Kyle Whittingham knows what his running back room looks like after two weeks of action and we should see a more cohesive plan at the position next week.

Utah’s tight end room is still strong with Kincaid, Kuithe, and Cole Fotheringham all playing well through two games. 

Devin Lloyd and Clark Phillips III stood out on defense yet again, and the young secondary can use this game as experience moving forward after facing a great quarterback like Hall.

Up Next

The nine game winning streak in the Holy War is over, but Utah’s season is just beginning. They don’t face the Cougars again until 2024, so this rivalry will be put to bed for a few seasons as Utah keeps their focus on the Pac-12 title. This loss won’t hurt them much in terms of making a run at the conference championship, and a playoff berth is still on the table with an undefeated run the rest of the way.

USC lost to Stanford on Saturday, cracking the door open for the Utes as long as they can take care of business in Los Angeles on Oct. 9. Oregon is formidable as always and they’re coming off a huge win against Ohio State, but Utah won’t face them until Nov. 20th, and potentially again in the Pac-12 Championship game.

For now, they focus on closing out the non-conference schedule at San Diego State on Sept. 18. It’s a good opportunity to get back on the right foot before Washington State comes to visit on Sept. 25 in Utah’s Pac-12 opener. A loss to BYU always hurts, but one this early on in the season allows the Utes an opportunity to put this one far behind them as they chase a larger goal.

 

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