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Bill Riley: Sunday Morning QB: Utah’s offense needs an identity

SALT LAKE CITY — In the aftermath of Utah’s 21-7 loss to the 10th ranked Washington Huskies Saturday night, I spoke with Utah wide receiver Britain Covey on our radio network post game show. Covey, who had a tough night from both a football and physical sense, made two very interesting points.

  • Utah, at times, could simplify things and just give the ball to Zack Moss, because it seems like positive things come out of that every time.
  • On the bye week, the Utah offense needs to find an identity. Right now the offense doesn’t have an identity. Every team that’s good has an identity. Utah needs to find where Tyler Huntley is comfortable and mold the identity to that.

That’s pretty spot on analysis from a 21-year-old young man. He’s not wrong, either. Utah has long been identified as physical and run-first football program. Right now, though, they appear caught in between what they are and what they want to be.

The thing going for Utah is they are only three games into a 12-game season and already have two wins. Additionally, Utah now has a bye and two weeks to get ready for their next opponent, the Washington State Cougars in Pullman on Sept. 29.

For those worried about preseason expectations not being able to be met, pump the brakes for just a moment. Yes, Utah didn’t look great offensively on Saturday night, but it’s still very early.

A check of Saturday night’s Pac-12 Scoreboard shows a South Division that is very much in chaos right now. Linebacker Cody Barton said on Saturday night, he fully expects to see Washington again this year in the Pac-12 Championship game. It could certainly happen, but only if Utah figures out who or what it wants to be on offense.

  • Utah has a -6 in the turnover margin through the first three games. Saturday night against Washington, Utah was -2.
  • In three games this season, Utah has more three-and-outs on offense (nine), than they do touchdowns on offense (seven).
  • Five dropped passes by Utah’s pass catchers on Saturday night, which brings the season total (unofficially) to 13 dropped passes. Saturday night there were three drops by tight ends and two drops by wide outs.

Washington running back Myles Gaskins played his fourth career game against Utah Saturday night. The Huskies’ all-time leading rushers has amassed some impressive numbers in those four meetings. Gaskin has 86 carries for 439 yards and five rushing touchdowns against the Utes. Gaskin went for 143 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown on Saturday night.

  • Offensive line play showed big improvement against one of the best defensive fronts in the Pac-12. One player in particular, Nick Ford, was impressive. Ford, who has rotated at left guard this season, was called on to start at right tackle for Darren Paulo, who was sick.
  • The Utah linebackers posted big numbers against the Huskies. Chase Hansen, Cody Barton and Donovan Thompson were Utah’s three leading tacklers. Hansen and Barton had eleven tackles each and Thompson with eight.
  • Utah had back-to-back drives that started deep in Washington territory in the fourth quarter. One of them was at the Huskies 11-yard line and one at the Huskies 28-yard line. Neither resulted in points.
  • Utah’s passing game netted just 138 yards on 39 pass attempts. There was simply no consistency from the quarterback to his targets down the field. A good passing game thrives on rhythm and flow. Utah didn’t have that on Saturday night.

Utah will next be in action in Pullman, Washington on September 29. Kickoff time is still to be determined. You can catch my broadcast from Martin Stadium on ESPN 700.

Bill Riley

About the Author: Bill Riley

Bill Riley is a 17-year member of the Salt Lake City media. He has been the play-by-play voice of Real Salt Lake every year of their existence — 14 years. He’s also the play-by-play voice of the University of Utah. Riley can be heard weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on ESPN 700 Radio, where he is a host and program director.

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