2021 Season Summary (still being told)

We still have a few more chapters to tell, but this year has been really fun. 2020 and 2021 has been hard on all of us and this team of young men has faced so much hardship beyond the pandemic, tragically losing 2 of their own. I’ve heard some coaches break down the season into 4 quarters - focus on a group of 3 games and try to win every quarter. I’m no @Ma-ake but add your comments.

Q1: Weber St., @ BYU, @ SDSU (1-2) C-
What we learned: As expected, the team has some growing up to do. Brewer is not the answer - the team will rally around Captain Rising. OL needed to gel. Tavion Thomas was RB1 but had to learn to hold onto the ball. Bernard was a great run/catch combo and Pledger has good speed (if he can hit a hole) and pass blocking. TEs are solid and we had 3 good to great ones. WR have a few threats. Defense is just ok. ST has a few issues (KO return) and is just ok. Overall, this Q1 prepped us decently like a preseason for conference play.

Weber St: This game was what it was - a scrimmage to work out kinks, especially for a young team with transfers. Brewer looked pretty good, bringing his experience and finding several receivers (Kincaid, Enis, Kuithe, Bernard) multiple times. Bernard seemed to enter as RB1a with a good mix of run and catch, but Tavion came out and ran for 107 yds on 12 carries as a bigger back and showed he is at least RB1b.

BYU: Just seemed like the few older veterans (Covey) couldn’t convince the younger players and transfers how this rivalry is different. Being on the road with full stadium of loud fans is new. There wasn’t energy from our team, Brewer didn’t respond to adversity, and the team didn’t really seem to rally around him. Bernard did his best to put the team on his back, but it wasn’t enough. We were still in it late, but we find out BYU has a good team.

SDSU: Admittedly, I didn’t see much of this game (was on vacation), but the story was Brewer was lackluster, Rising came in the 2nd half to rally the team, tied it, then fell short in OT. We gave up a KO TD. Rising is the future and brings energy the team responds to. With him, the team has grit. Brewer leaves the team that week. Could’ve, should’ve won the game, but we did not. Good chance to play on the road, as conference road games are always a challenge. SDSU is a decent team.

Q2: Washington St., @ USC, ASU (3-0) A
What we learned: Knew going in that USC/ASU were 2 of 3 most important games of the season. We have a pretty good team and pre-conference worked out a lot of kinks. We belong. Devin Lloyd is a beast. Our offense is our strong suit, esp. as the OL develops.

Wash St.: Surprisingly low scoring and frustrating with 7 fumbles (3 lost) until we put it away late in the 4th quarter after a Pledger TD (117 yds) and sealed it with a Phillips pick-6. Just starting to figure things out. Made a lot of mistakes, but defense did a decent job limiting points on decent yards.

USC: Emotional game coming after a bye week that included the tragic loss of Aaron Lowe. The team played with heart and won in the Coliseum for the 1st time in forever. Rising broke out with 306 yds 3 TD and Tavion ran for 113 yds. We weathered Slovis’ 400 yds. We just played well, the offense looked great. The D did plenty. It was fun but bittersweet. Turns out USC is not good, but still so satisfying.

ASU: Had to come back from 21-7 at half and scored 28 unanswered. Covey flexed and that’s how the team felt. No 100 yd rusher. Team effort. Solid D. Put scumdevils in their place.

Q3: @ Oregon St., UCLA, @ Stanford (2-1) B
What we learned: Our offense is our strength - might as well go ahead and be on offense 1st. We can rely on our run game with a stable of 3 solid RBs and improved OL and mix in some passing to strong TEs and a few receivers. Punting unit has issues. Our DL needs some work, esp. to stop the run.

Oregon St: We could not stop their ground attack and had 2 punts blocked, one for a TD. Oregon St. came back from a 24-14 halftime deficit. We missed a FG and were stopped twice on 4th down from the 2 yd line. Thomas and Rising both had 70ish yards rushing and Rising passed for 267 yards and 2 TD, but we made too many mistakes on the road to win.

UCLA: On a night #22 was retired, Utah scored 22+22 = 44 behind Tavion’s 160 yds (team 297 yds) and 4 TDs (credit OL). Sewell led the D to contain UCLA.

Stanford: Domination against a depleted, bad team. Thomas again has 4 TDs and 177 yds, Bernard has 110 yds/1 TD on the ground and 32 receiving, Pledger has 107 yds including a school record 96 yd TD run. Stanford doesn’t cross mid-field for a LONG time and has no offensive yards into the 2nd quarter (IIRC).

Q4: @ UA, Oregon, CU (1-0 with 2 to go) TBD
What we learned/will learn: We can’t overlook any team, but have grit to fight it out. We will learn how we stack against Oregon and handle the mental pressure of big games with the division, CCG, and potential Rose bowl bid on the line.

Arizona: Perhaps looking ahead to Oregon, we don’t take UA seriously enough and they are better than we thought. Containing a mobile QB has been our achilles as we played somewhat undisciplined. Another blocked punt for TD hurt. I won’t blame the refs, but players need to not be in the position to get called for personal fouls without losing appropriate aggressiveness. We did enough to pull out a win with Rising passing for nearly 300 and Pledger rushing for 119/2 TD with Thomas nursing an injury.

Oregon: We will have to contain RB Dye and QB Brown which hasn’t been our strongest suit. Hopefully we can be disciplined, even if it’s bend/don’t break defense. Hopefully we can counter Kayvon Thibodeaux with double teams and use speed, screens, our RBs, and TEs to counter. Rising could hurt them if they over-pursue pass rush. We MUST limit penalties, ST mistakes, and turnovers.

Colorado: Hopefully we won’t need this game to go to CCG, but we shouldn’t overlook them, esp. RB Broussard. We need a winning culture and momentum (and health) going into Vegas. Their LB missed last year and will be gunning for us. It’ll be a short week (Fri game after Thanksgiving), but score early and often on Senior day (we don’t really have any notable ones technically, but there might be some that this will be their last home game, like Lloyd) so we can get the starters good reps, get backups some time, and avoid injuries.

Enjoying every game, win or lose. 4 more to go! 2022 looking bright as well.

Nice summation. In a way this season reminds me of 2008. Obviously we’re not going undefeated. But we all had an inkling the team could be pretty good. I don’t recall any blowout wins in 2008, but I do remember the team coming together and playing well as a team. The 2008 team found ways to win, the current team is now finding ways to win.

I admit, the 2008 team didn’t have the adversities of this 2021 team. It also wasn’t as young. Yet both had to learn how to win. I think this years team may have more “pluckiness,” in that they’ve overcome more adversity while learning to win, and have fun doing it. 2008, in my memory, seemed more business like as it learned to win, and impose its will on the opposition.

Suffice it to say, this has been an interesting season. I hope that it ends with a Rose Bowl win.

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The other touching thing about the season is how the PAC12 conference and teams stepped up to show their support of Utah and Aaron Lowe. Red hash marks on the 22 yard lines? Moments of silence and tributes? I’m not crying. You’re crying.

Football is a game and in the end, these young men are playing to the best of their ability, trying to get better and live their dreams, make mistakes, but work to represent their schools and families.

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On the DL this year and our pressure and blitzes I’ve felt like we have had sooooooooo many instances of being just a half-step/half-second too late. Getting good pressure and last minute evading a sack or just barely missing a tackle on a sweeping RB, etc. And of course that has hurt us downfield passing too. The second we crack that code or even get some breaks in that regard it will change a lot of things. I’m no coach so I don’t know how to fix that, but I can’t tell you how many times we’ve juuuuuuuust missed back there.

If we can fix that I think we’ll do well against everyone. If we don’t… we’ll have some big challenges ahead that might keep us out of the Rose Bowl.

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Really one of the stories of this season has been all the true freshman getting snaps. Before COVID and the transfer portal ripped a hole in the development of players universe, most of these guys would be riding the redshirt express. They would see two spring games before their cracking the starting rotation party.

Now they start. Some games we have seen up to eight guys on the field playing who are true freshmen. Knowing that, it is easy to see how at the beginning of the season most of these guys we just barely learning their roles, and doing it OJT. It’s a testament to the coaches and players themselves they developed so rapidly as to be where they are now.

Most teams that go through a youth movement tend to have records like Arizona. We got lucky and only dropped a couple of non conference games. Losing to the Beavs hurt, but it also helped the team develop. Hopefully they are ready to take a really big next step this weekend against NIKE U.

GO UTES!!!

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