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Utah football report card: High-level Utes trounce Wildcats thanks to balanced effort

Utah Utes offensive lineman Paul Toala (65) and teammates celebrate after their 42-10 win over the Arizona Wildcats at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018.
Utah Utes offensive lineman Paul Toala (65) and teammates celebrate after their 42-10 win over the Arizona Wildcats at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Dare Ute fans ask for more?

Less than a week after their 40-21 dismantling of the Stanford Cardinal, the Utes earned high marks again, this time at the expense of the Arizona Wildcats.

Utah defeated Arizona 42-10, powered by the sixth-best offensive performance — statistically — in Utah’s Pac-12 history.

Tyler Huntley threw for over 200 yards and two touchdowns, and for an added bonus hauled in a touchdown reception and rushed for another.

Zack Moss scored, as did Demari Simpkins, Samson Nacua and Armand Shyne.

Defensively Utah was stout, per the norm, holding Arizona to just 318 total yards of offense and one touchdown.

Special teams were again excellent, considering the opportunities available.

All told, Utah had another strong outing and more importantly earned another Pac-12 victory.


In his postgame presser, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham spoke about his team’s offense early and often.

He used the word execution multiple times, citing the fact that improved execution has taken the offense to another level.

Indeed, the Utah offense was at another level Friday night.

Leading the way was Tyler Huntley, who had himself a game.

The quarterback threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns, completing passes to six different receivers. He also rushed for 67 yards on 11 carries, averaging nearly six yards per touch.

And he also got involved in the receiving game when he hauled in a 58-yard touchdown reception.

Aside from an ill-advised interception, really the only negative in his performance, Huntley was fantastic.

“I thought Tyler Huntley played exceptionally well,” Whittingham said. “He completed over 70 percent of his passes, though I know he had the one interception that he wishes he had back.

“It is great to see him have success, he has worked so hard,” Whittingham continued. “He is a true competitor and a student of the game. He is always in the film room. It was good to see his work pay off. Just back-to-back outstanding performances by Tyler.”

In addition to Huntley, Utah’s receiving corps had its finest combined outing of the season. Britain Covey, Simpkins, Jaylen Dixon, Nacua, you name a receiver and they had an excellent outing.

Covey led the way with six receptions for 51 yards, while Simpkins had the most total yardage (78 yards) thanks to a 68-yard touchdown reception.

“Receivers, I thought, played very well,” said Whittingham.

As far as the running game goes, Utah rushed for 230 total yards and three touchdowns, with Moss, Huntley and Armand Shyne each rushing for a score.

Moss’ overall numbers weren’t fantastic, he carried the ball 15 times for 68 yards, but in the context of the game, he gave Utah everything it needed.

“Zack Moss wasn’t as productive as usual just because he didn’t get as many touches,” Whittingham said. “He made some key runs in that first half to move chains for us.”

Perhaps the best part of the offense's performance was the play of the offensive line. Again without starting center Lo Falemaka, the O-line was more than up to the task against the Wildcats.

“I am proud of the O-line,” said Whittingham. “That O-line configuration played exceptionally well, for the second week in a row.”

All told, a few untimely penalties and Huntley’s interception keep the Utes from a perfect grade, but it was an outstanding performance nonetheless.

Grade: A-


It has gotten to the point of the season that, when talking about Utah’s defense, nitpicking is in order. Even Whittingham was guilty of it Friday night.

“The defense did a lot of good things,” he said. “Still too many penalties, we have to clean that up. Also, if there is a negative it is that we need to take away the ball more, cause more turnovers. That is something that we can do better.”

After voicing his criticisms, however, Whittingham had this to say about his defense.

“Overall, great effort.”

The Utes held Arizona to just 318 total yards, 72 on the ground and 246 through the air.

Those numbers get even better when considering just the first half, the only time when the outcome was still in doubt.

Despite facing three different Arizona quarterbacks with varying styles, Utah held Arizona to just 87 yards through the air and 35 on the ground in the first half.

Leading the way was a defensive front that routinely stymied the Wildcats' rushing tries, all the while pressuring whichever quarterback was in the game.

Hauati Pututau led all defensive tackles with four tackles, while defensive end Maxs Tupai tied for a game-high nine tackles.

Caleb Repp, John Penisini, Bradlee Ana, or Pita Tonga, you name a defensive lineman and he had an impact.

“They have been good all year long,” said Whittingham. “We lead the Pac-12 in rush defense and are somewhere in the top ten in the nation. That speaks to the front with those down lineman. We have eight of them that roll through there and they are all very good players.”

Also great Friday night was Chase Hansen. The linebacker recorded a team-high nine tackles, including a sack of Khalil Tate. Cody Barton wasn’t too shabby either as he finished with eight tackles and a sack.

“Chase and Cody are are just tough hard-nosed kids that fit the run really well and have great gap control,” said Whittingham.

The Utes’ secondary didn’t have a spectacular outing as they allowed Arizona to complete passes of 42, 31 and 29 yards — the 42-yarder was a touchdown reception by Cedric Peterson.

Still, as a whole, the group held Arizona to just the one score and Javelin Guidry, Terrell Burgess and Marquise Blair all finished with four or more tackles.

Even with a few breakdowns in coverage and penalties, such as pass interference, Utah’s defense was its normal great self.

Grade: A-

Special Teams

Mitch Wishnowsky.

On a night when special teams didn’t play much of a role — Matt Gay didn’t attempt a field goal, but did convert six extra points — Wishnowsky was the one and only highlight.

The punter had perhaps the play of the game when, during a rugby-style punt, he kept the ball and rushed for a big first down. It isn’t the first time this season that Wishnowsky has pulled off the feat, but for many, including his coach, it was the most memorable.

“The best run of the night was made by Mitch Wishnowsky,” Whittingham said. “Just for the record that wasn’t a called fake. That is just built into the scheme. I’ve said that many times. When we rugby punt, if they don’t cover correctly, he has a green light every single time.”

Wishnowsky took advantage of the green light and got the first down via a 28-yard scamper.

The only thing keeping Utah from a perfect night on special teams was its own kick coverage.

Arizona’s J.J Taylor was effective in that regard for the Wildcats, returning three kickoffs for 67 total yards, including one for 29.

Grade: A


While not a perfect outing, a turnover and penalties made sure of that, Utah was great against the Wildcats. The offense was effective, explosive and balanced. The defense, while flawed, was its normal nationally relevant self. Special teams, despite limited opportunities, were solid again.

For the second week in a row Utah looked like a team capable of contending in the Pac-12 and for the second week in a row the Utes earned a victory.

All told, it was as good a performance as could be hoped for.

"It was good to see us build on last week's victory and continue to get into a rhythm," Whittingham said. "All three phases contributed. It was an overall good team win."

Grade: A