Three Things To Watch: SUU VS. #13 Utah
SALT LAKE CITY- Things didn’t go quite as planned for the Utes down in the Swamp last Saturday. Don’t get me wrong, it was an entertaining game, and in the long run Utah has nothing to hang their head about losing 29-26 in as intense of an environment as I believe any of us have ever seen. However, it doesn’t change that losing isn’t as fun as winning (duh).
While there was plenty to like about the 2022 Utah Utes after their marquee season opener, there is also plenty to nit-pick too. Here are the three things I will be watching Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium as Utah opens their home schedule against Southern Utah University.
Tackling, Tackling, Tackling, And More Tackling
This is the biggest one for me to be honest. This was the thing that drove me the craziest watching Utah against Florida last week.
Utah is known for tough, sound defense- particularly in the run game. It was less than that last Saturday. The hardest pill to swallow was that often the Utes were in good position to make a play, they just didn’t and so much of that was due to not wrapping up properly.
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27 missed tackles is a lot, even for as amazingly gifted as Gator quarterback Anthony Richardson is. Yes, you expect a few more mistakes when facing that kind of talent, but not nearly three times what you normally record in a game.
The first and second levels of Utah’s defense need to improve in this regard and I expect it to be a major point of emphasis against the Thunderbirds this week. Unfortunately, SUU isn’t exactly the best test to make sure you’re on the right track, but you can only play who is on the schedule and reps are reps. I want to see Utah be thoughtful in their approach and finish the job every play.
Finish The Job, Utah
Speaking of finishing the job…this falls a little in line with the tackling issue, but can be applied to the offense as well. Utah failed to make big plays happen on both sides of the ball despite them being right on the doorstep.
Defensively the Utes had opportunities to create “havoc” plays- specifically get sacks and tackles-for-loss. They just didn’t. A big part of it was poor tackling like mentioned above.
Offensively, Utah knocked on the end zone door a total of six times, but only scored on three of those six trips. Again, the plays were there to be had, but sloppy play left the Utes empty-handed when they could have had more.
Southern Utah presents a great opportunity for the Utes to really focus on “finishing the job” whether that’s a long drive on offense ending in a touchdown, or the defense getting a critical sack on third down. The team as a whole needs to be better in this regard.
Test The Depth
Once the first stringers have exorcised their Florida demons in the first half, maybe even a little into the third quarter, I want to see the second, third and even fourth string guys out on the field making plays.
There aren’t a lot of games where you can empty the bench and see what you have without too much threat of losing a game, but Southern Utah is one of them and I think it would be wise for the Utes to do so.
You think you’re a top dog in college football? Then you need to make sure your backups get some play time so that when and if their time comes later in the season, they have some experience under their belt.
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