Bleeding Red: Big win vs. Cal, but Utes must finish strong

Not one but two kicks returned for big scores
While the D scooped a fumble for one more
And with the 1-2 punch of York and White
The Bears learned that boom goes the dynamite!

COMMENTARY – Well done Utah! For the first time this season, the Utes dominated the field of play. The win over the Cal Bears was never really in doubt beyond the start of the second quarter. Even the glorified scrimmage against Northern Colorado to start the season was knotted at nil going into the second quarter.

I could nit-pick some plays here and there, but I won’t (well, maybe just one). Instead, I am just going to bask in the glow of the Utah’s best all-around performance of the season against a quality opponent, and revel in some of my favorite plays from the game.

How do you rip the heart out of a team early in a game? Give them a false sense of confidence by letting them drive the field for a field goal on their first possession … and then return the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. I wish I had Reggie Dunn on my fantasy football team, especially since I talked our commissioner into giving points for return yards this year. Dunn returned not one, but two kick-offs for 100+ yards and two touchdowns.

On Utah’s first offensive play from scrimmage, Reggie Dunn ran an end-around for a meager 2-yard gain. While Dunn’s rushing stats pale in comparison to his return stats, it was how he got the 2-yard gain that impressed me. Dunn should have been caught in the backfield for a loss, However, QB Travis Wilson laid down a block on a Cal defender that any offensive lineman would be proud of. When the QB sets the standard on the first play from scrimmage by de-cleating a defender, the rest of the offense better show up to play. They did.

Through the first seven games of the season, the Utes had only four total rushing touchdowns. Utah matched their prior total with four rushing touchdowns against Cal. John White IV accounted for two of those scores and topped 100 yards rushing for the 10th time as a Ute. Utah is now 10-0 when White rushes for 100 yards or more. Kelvin York had a rushing touchdown himself to go with 51 rushing yards.

Much to my chagrin, Travis Wilson ran a QB draw in for a touchdown in the red zone. Now Brian Johnson is going to keep running that play notwithstanding the epic failures of such runs by Wilson in prior games. If Wilson ends up scrambling and getting some positive yardage out of a play, then I have no problem with that. But with White and York in the backfield, there is no good reason to put Wilson at risk running the ball when he is much more effective throwing it. BYU tried to get too cute with their freshman quarterback Taysom Hill running the ball and now he is out for the remainder of the season. I would hope that Utah would do what it can to keep Wilson on the field.

I did like Brian Johnson coming down from the booth and calling the game from the sideline where he could interact more effectively with his young quarterback.

I’m giving the offense lots of love this week in light of its many shortcomings in weeks past. But as good as the offense was, the defense and special teams were even better. The offense barely accounted for more than half of Utah’s scores as the defense and special teams put three scores on the board themselves.

The icing on the cake was the Utes styling blackout uniforms. It’s one thing to play well, but it takes it to another level when you look that good doing it.

One conference win does not a season make. Utah kept its bowl hopes alive with the win against Cal, but they still need to win at least three of the remaining four games. Next up, Washington State is coming to town this Saturday.

This is not the same Washington State that BYU ran off the field in August. Although the Cougars from up north are still winless in the Pac-12, they gave Stanford a scare in Palo Alto last week, losing by a single score. Utah better come to play this weekend. I’m betting they will and that would make it two in a row, reminiscent of last year’s late season run.

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