Thoughts From the Gridiron: Utah vs. Washington State

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Jonathan Wang

Utah Football faces Washington State in Pac-12 opener at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday Sept. 25, 2021. (Photo by Jonathan Wang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The University of Utah football team grabbed a win in their Pac-12 opener against Washington State on Saturday afternoon. It was a mostly ugly game with a lot of turnovers, but Utah ultimately came out on top.

Offense

The story of the game was definitely the fumbling issues. Utah fumbled the ball a whopping seven times, losing three of them to turnovers.

There were multiple other plays where Utah players were ruled down by contact on a would-be fumble, including a questionable play where Cole Fotheringham was ruled down.

Ball security is an emphasis from head coach Kyle Whittingham, and it has been a big problem for the Utes this season so far.

“We have some things to continue to figure out on offense,” Whittingham said. “We did some good things but we need to be more … consistent at taking care of the football.”

Cameron Rising was up and down in his first full game as a member of the Utes. The offensive line gave him pretty good protection Saturday afternoon, but he only finished with 137 yards passing.

Backup Ja’Quinden Jackson came in for a couple of plays near the goal line, and scored one touchdown. Jackson also fumbled at the goal line later on in the game.

TJ Pledger was the featured running back today after Micah Bernard fumbled and then left with an injury. Pledger scored the go-ahead touchdown in the second half and felt like the only guy who took good care of the football.

Defense

Utah’s defense was incredible today, staying resilient even despite the offense turning the ball over so many times. Washington State possessed the ball for nearly 37 minutes of game time, but the defense held tough for most of the afternoon.

The Cougars’ lone touchdown came from a short field after a fumble by Bernard at the beginning of the second half. 

Karene Reid started in place of injured Nephi Sewell, and was perhaps the most impressive player on the field. The freshman led the team in tackles to go along with a sack and an interception. Reid was very impressive and has earned more playing time going forward.

Clark Phillips III sealed the game with a pick six to put Utah up 11 with just a few minutes to play. Phillips has been outstanding so far this year.

Special Teams

Kicker Jadon Redding missed a field goal from 31 yards out and was benched for Jordan Noyes. Noyes kicked two extra points and made them both, and that is now a battle to watch moving forward.

“Jadon (Redding), when you look at the fall camp — he clearly beat out Jordan (Noyes),” Whittingham said. “But Jordan has been coming on and Jadon has missed a couple of kicks already — two PATs and three field goals. It’s all about what you’ve done for me lately. So we’ll have a competition the next few weeks to determine who the kicker is going to be, but I thought Jordan did a nice job with his kickoffs as well with no returns because they were out of the end zone.”

Britain Covey had a few nice returns today. He became the school’s all-time leading punt returner with 902 yards for his career and counting.

Up Next

Utah has a bye this week before heading to USC on Oct. 9. They are looking forward to resting, getting healthy and heading into the second game of Pac-12 play at 1-0 in conference.

 

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