Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Season review: Utah
By Ted Miller
We continue out team-by-team review with Utah.
Utah's high point of the 2013 season was an upset win over Stanford in October.
Offense: The Utah offense pretty much had two seasons. During the first six games, which included Pac-12 matchups with Oregon State, UCLA and Stanford, the Utes averaged 30 points per game with sophomore QB Travis Wilson showing plenty of promise under first-year offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson. That number, by the way, includes throwing out the 70 points the Utes scored against FCS team Weber State. Then, after Wilson caught the injury bug, the offense faltered dramatically, averaging 21 points while the Utes lost five of their final six games. The end result was only modest improvement from 2012: points up to 28.5 points per game compared to 26.7 in 2012 and yards up to 396.6 from 324.4, improvement that advanced the Utes from 11th to 10th in the conference. One area where things went in reverse was turnovers. The Utes only had 18 turnovers in 2012, but they had 25 this fall, including 21 interceptions. The running game remained mediocre, and the passing game became highly inefficient over the second half of the season, finishing 10th in the conference. Grade: C-
Defense: The Utes defense took a step back in 2013, which shouldn't come as a surprise due to heavy talent losses from 2012, starting with DT Star Lotulelei. The Utes got a lot of sacks -- 39, which ranked third in the conference at the end of the regular season -- and were solid against the run, ranking third with 130.3 yards yielded per game, but they were in the bottom half of the conference in most rankings. They were eighth in points allowed (28.0), seventh in total defense (397.7) and ninth in pass efficiency defense. Each of those numbers were worse than 2012. The defense also was inconsistent. It played well against BYU, Stanford, USC and Arizona State, but got rocked by Oregon State and Washington State. Grade: C
Special teams: Other than kick returns, where they were replacing Reggie Dunn, the Utes were strong on special teams. They ranked second in field goal percentage, first in punting and fourth in punt returns. With punter Tom Hackett and kicker Andy Phillips slated to return next year, one area the Utes have covered is their specialists. Grade: A-
Overall: The Utes finished 5-7 overall and ineligible for a bowl game for a second consecutive year, but the even more concerning number was the 2-7 mark in conference play, which is another step back from the 3-6 of 2012. It was a disappointing season, despite a thrilling home win over then No. 5 Stanford, and Utes fans are growing impatient with their Pac-12 experience, with more than a few starting to question coach Kyle Whittingham. Utah was again competitive in conference play, with four defeats coming by a combined 22 points, but the fan base wants more than that. It's fair to say Whittingham will make a few preseason "hot seat" lists. Grade: C-.