Season Report Card: Utah Utes
After stumbling to an 0-2 record in Pac-12 play, Utah hosted the undefeated Stanford Cardinal. And in one of the biggest upsets all season long in the conference, the Utes knocked off the Pac-12 power with a huge goal-line stand.
Without question, that was the biggest highlight for Kyle Whittingham's squad on the year, with the rest of the season not exactly going all that smoothly.
The Utes finished at 5-7 overall, with only two wins in the conference (Stanford and Colorado). It was the second straight year that Utah failed to reach a bowl game, but Whittingham obviously deserves some slack having previously led the team to seven bowl appearances during his tenure in Salt Lake City.
Let's look back and grade the Utes on their performance this season:
Utah was a middle of the road team in most major offensive categories this season. It struggled to get consistent quarterback play, and was hurt even more by Travis Wilson seeing his season cut short after a pre-existing condition was found during tests for a concussion. Sophomore quarterback Adam Schulz came in and played decent football in the final three games, which included a win over Colorado to end the season. Wide receiver Dres Anderson was the biggest offensive threat on the field, hitting the 100-yard receiving mark six times on the year.
The Utes struggled mightily against the pass, finishing 111th in the country in passing defense. On the flip side, they managed to finish 20th in rushing defense. The defense actually helped keep a few high octane offenses in check (Stanford and Arizona State), so they were certainly effective at times. That was thanks in large part to a pass rush that compiled 39 sacks, good for eighth in the nation. Senior defensive lineman Trevor Reilly was the anchor of this defensive unit, leading the team in sacks and tackles.
Whittingham is still facing a giant challenge in trying to make Utah a legit contender in the Pac-12. Remember that this team has only been playing in this conference since 2011. The Utes aren't quite on the same level as the upper-tier teams yet, and there's still work to be done to try and make that happen.
Utah showed signs this season of being able to take the next step in the Pac-12. The win over Stanford proved that Whittingham has key pieces in place that you need in order to be successful. Now, the next step is to consistently overtake the group of teams in the middle of the conference (Washington State, Oregon State, Arizona). When that happens, then Utah can focus on making the jump to true Pac-12 contender.
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