Bleeding Red: Plenty to get excited about with 2017 Utes

A win is a win, exciting or not
Fans should be grateful for what they have got
And Pac-12 play is about to begin
Exciting indeed; hopefully more wins

COMMENTARY – A pessimistic fan once told me that exciting football is being played somewhere in the world, but not in Utah. 

I personally think that this is a bit harsh, but there is some truth in that statement after the first three games this season. The Utes being 3-0 is never a bad thing, but if the most exciting aspect of the San Jose State game last Saturday was the kicking game, then that pretty much speaks for itself.

Although, the kicking game was truly spectacular and entertaining.

Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky punted the ball 30 yards off of his left foot while on the run (by the way, he is right-footed) and downed the ball inside the 15-yard line (barely hitting the sideline to prevent the cover guys from downing the ball inside of the 2-yard line).

Kicker Matt Gay kicked the second longest field goal in school history — 56 yards (the longest is a 59-yard field goal by Marv Bateman in 1971). Gay kicked two 50-plus yard field goals last Saturday, and that is the first time that has been done in school history. Remember, Gay walked on out of nowhere and wasn’t expected to be the starting kicker this year.

Other than the kicking fireworks, it would be a stretch to describe last Saturday’s game as exciting. However, it is my philosophy that a win is a win, and no matter how ugly that win is. And a 3-0 start is always a good thing.

Now, the games played so far may not go down as the most exciting games in the Utes history, but there are plenty of things that are exciting about this team. Let’s look at three of them:

1. Tyler Huntley

Huntley threw three touchdown passes on Saturday (although he did turn the ball over twice). His performance was an improvement over his performance the week before (the touchdowns that is, not the turnovers).

I firmly believe that Utah has finally found the quarterback that they have been looking for since Brian Johnson graduated. That is not to say that the Utes have had nothing but horrid quarterbacks during the past few years, but let’s be honest with ourselves — there hasn’t been a quarterback even close to Johnson since he graduated.

“He is throwing the ball exceptionally well – over 70 percent completion percentage, which is outstanding,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said at Monday’s press conference. “[He] took a few less hits on Saturday night, which is a good thing as well. We want to make sure we keep trending that direction.”
Huntley still has a lot to learn, but right now he is playing about as well, if not better, than every quarterback that has suited up for Utah the last few years, and he is going to continue to get better. By the time this season is over, Huntley is going to be one fine quarterback (hopefully sooner rather than later).

2. Darren Carrington ll

Carrington racked up 153 receiving yards and three touchdowns on Saturday to lead all receivers, with the second best being Samson Nacua with 58 yards.

Carrington has had over 100 yards receiving in each of his three games as a Ute. He is an electrifying receiver who has a ton of athletic ability and has made several impressive catches this year. He is exactly what the Utah offense needs to improve its passing attack from the past few seasons and so far, it is working out beautifully.

“Darren has certainly lived up to expectations,” Whittingham said. “He has not surprised me or exceeded what we were hoping. He is doing exactly what we envisioned.”

However, if things are going to continue to go well for Carrington in Pac-12 play, the other receivers need to pick up the slack as Pac-12 defenses focus on taking Carrington out of the game and forcing other receivers to beat them.

3. Execution

In the first two games, the Utes (particularly the offense) had a massive problem with penalties. A total of 22 penalties for 232 yards in two games (including a touchdown nullified by a penalty) is a good way to beat yourself. It is hard enough playing the opposing team without shooting yourself in the foot.

Last Saturday, the offense looked much better in terms of executing plays for positive yardage (instead of nullifying big plays and moving backward with penalties). Six penalties for 50 yards may still be more than Kyle Whittingham would like to see, but it was much better than the first two weeks.

Looking forward

The non-conference schedule is now in the books and Pac-12 play begins this week.

The Utes start their Pac-12 journey with a trip to Arizona to play the Wildcats on Friday night (yep, Friday!).

“The level of competition certainly goes up, we’re aware of that,” Whittingham said. “This will definitely be our stiffest test of the year.”

Here’s hoping Utah continues to minimize penalties, maximize scoring, and keep playing spectacular defense, so the Utes can continue to earn W’s in Pac-12 play.

Bleeding Red is sports column written by Dwayne and Josh Vance. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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