The Ute’s Rose, Thorn and Bud Through the First Four Games of the 2018 Season

By Cy Miyake @thebigcaute
A rose, a thorn and a bud are common analogies used to describe what was good, what was bad and what you’re looking forward to.
  This applies to our 2-2 Utes who are seeking their first PAC-12 win of the 2018 college football season.  Utah has beaten their write in wins but now faces a daunting conference schedule already down 0-2 and a great chance to start off 0-3.  There is some light ahead as the Utes are starting to discover their offensive identity and the PAC-12 south division has been an extremely weak division in P5 football.  We will start with the thorn just to get the negative feelings out of the way first.

The Utah offense.  You really thought it was going to be something else?  The Ute’s offense has been overkilled by countless media members and fans in the last decade so I won’t be trying to kill a dead horse here.  However, the offense so far, this year has only produced 10 touchdowns in 4 games which is only 2.5 per game.  Drops and fumbles have plagued this receiving core who ended fall camp with tons of hype and they do have the talent but it is just a much longer and slower process then fans anticipated.  Zack Moss has been his usual tank self even with an ankle injury where he doesn’t seem as explosive he is still averaging 5.2 yards a carry, establishing the run game and luring the defenses to stuffing the box and exposing them with quick passes would be my choice of an identity for the Utes.  The offensive line still has had growing pains, (NIU and Washington St. just in case you forgot.) This unit still has room to grow and they could be a lot worse.  Having center Lo Falemaka on the injured list won’t help this unit but they will improve as the season goes on.  This offense will be as good as this line can keep them going. 

Surprise, surprise the defense has been by far the biggest positive from this team this year.  The defensive line in my opinion doesn’t have “that guy” but they are an extremely effective unit and are on their way to claiming their spot among the many elite defensive lines in school history.  Mika Tafua has been outstanding in his freshman year, Bradlee Anae is his usual self and the interior lineman John Penisini and Leki Fotu have been extremely effective in clogging up the middle.  Once Fotu came in to the second half against Washington St, you could immediately see his impact on the defense.  Cody Barton has taken massive strides forward starting from the end of last year and Chase Hansen is Chase freaking Hansen.  This line backing group along with Donovan Thompson could give that 2015 group of Norris and Paul a run for their money.  They are smart, effective tacklers and we have yet to see a game where the linebackers aren’t the strongest unit on defense.  The secondary has been strong once again and even though they had a rough game against Mike Leach’s air raid offense they did enough to win the game in limiting Washington St. to 28 points.  I’d like to see more interceptions but the corners and safeties have all done their job so far.  Julian Blackmon, Jaylon Johnson and Javelin Guidry are living up to their hype and are holding opposing receivers to a completion percentage of 50.4%.  Corion Ballard had a rough Washington St. game but he did come up with that huge interception in the first quarter and he’s been a reliable center fielder for the Utes.  I’m extremely relieved to see Marquise Blair looks to be fully recovered from his torn ACL last year.  He is a human missile and his versatility has been a huge strength and puts opponents on their toes.  Overall, we have an elite defense in 2018 and as long as they do their part this team has a chance to win every game.

What I’m looking forward to is a matchup against Stanford that should be much easier compared to going against an elite Washington team as well as the Mike Leach air raid which is always a tough matchup for this team.  Especially with Stanford giving up large amounts of rushing yards in recent games and with Bryce Love’s status up in the air, the Utes have a good chance at returning from Palo Alto with a W.  In addition, this is a weak south this year and if Utah can run the table against their southern opponents we could be looking at the possibility of playing at Levi’s Stadium after the BYU game.  I don’t want to get ahead of myself but if the offense can keep taking the steps forward and this defense continues to be elite I can’t see a reason why Utah can’t compete this year.  Not all is lost and we need to support this team through the rough patches, it will make the joy of victory even sweeter.