#22 Utah Utes 2015 Preview

Previewing the Las Vegas Bowl against the #22 Utah Utes

BYU wrapped up the 2015 regular season with a 51-28 victory over rival Utah State finishing with a 9-3 record. The offseason has been short, albeit busy for the Cougars, six days after BYU’s final game of the season, it was announced that Bronco Mendenhall would be the next head coach at the University of Virginia. It’s been a bit of a distraction as 6 assistants have followed Mendenhall to the East Coast and the remaining players anxiously await the announcement of who their new coach will be. The Cougars also learned that they would return to the Las Vegas Bowl for the first time since 2009 and face rival Utah after the teams hadn’t played since 2013. The Cougars hope to send Bronco to his new job with 100 wins under his belt at BYU and one final victory over the U.

The Utes find themselves in this game after a lackluster finish to the regular season. After starting 6-0 and peaking to #3 in the country, the Utes split their last 6 games of the season, finishing 9-3 and fell to the Las Vegas Bowl after they had a chance to go to the CFP. The Utes lost two of their biggest weapons down the stretch in RB Devontae Booker and WR Britain Covey. The Utes boast a strong defense and a talented front seven bolstered by a deep defensive line and talented linebackers. The key match ups will be in the trenches for both teams and the team that controls the LOS should leave Sin City with a W.

Utah Utes 2014 Record: 9-4

vs Idaho State 56-14 W

vs Fresno State 59-27 W

@ Michigan 26-10 W

vs Washington State 27-28 L

@ #8 UCLA 30-28 W

@ Oregon State 29-23 W (2OT) #20

vs #20 USC 24-21 W #19

@ #15 Arizona State 16-19 L (OT) #18

vs #5 Oregon 27-51 L #20

@ Stanford 20-17 W (2OT) #25

vs #15 Arizona 10-42 L #20

@ Colorado 38-34 W

vs Colorado State 45-10 W #23

Utah Utes 2015 Record: 9-3

vs Michigan 24-17 W

vs Utah State 24-14 W #24

@ Fresno State 45-24 W #21

@ #13 Oregon 62-20 W #18

vs #23 California 30-24 W #5

vs #17 Arizona State 34-18 W #4

@ USC 24-42 L #3

vs Oregon State 27-12 W #13

@ Washington 34-23 W #13

@ Arizona 30-37 L (2OT) #10

vs UCLA 9-17 L #18

vs Colorado 20-14 W

vs BYU

Bronco Mendenhall vs. Kyle Whittingham

Kyle Whittingham:

Season: 11th

Record: 93-46

Neutral: 7-1

Bowl Games: 7-1

Las Vegas Bowl: 1-1 (Utah is 3-1 in the LV Bowl)

vs Non-Conf: 38-8

vs BYU: 6-3

Bronco Mendenhall:

Season: 11th

Record: 99-42

Neutral: 7-5

Bowl Games: 6-4

Las Vegas Bowl: 3-2

vs Pac-12: 71-122-6

vs Utah: 3-6

BYU vs Utah:

      Largest Margin of Victory: 65-6 (’77)

      Largest Margin of Loss: 40-0 (’23)

      Longest Win Streak: 10 (’83-’92)

      Longest Losing Streak: 5 (’52-’56)

      Last Game: 20-35 L (’14)

Utah depth chart


QB: Travis Wilson/Kendal Thompson

RB: Joe Williams/Bubba Poole

LT: Sam Tevi/Jackson Barton

LG: Isaac Asiata/Darrin Paulo

C: Siaosi Aiono/Hiva Lututi

RG: Salesi Uhatafe/Hiva Lutui

RT: JJ Dielman/Andrew Albers

TE: Harrison Handley/Caleb Repp

WR (X): Kenneth Scott/Delshawn McClellon

WR (Z): Tyrone Smith/Raelon Singleton

WR (H): Bubba Poole/Delshawn McClellon


DE: Kylie Fitts/Jason Whittingham

DT: Lowell Lotulelei/Stevie Tui’kolovatu

DT: Filipo Mokofisi/Villiseni Faonuku

DE: Jason Faniaka/ Pita Taumoepenu

SLB: Jason Whittingham/Cody Barton

MLB Jared Norris/Sunia Tauteoli

RLB: Gionni Paul/Sunia Tauteoli

CB: Domonique Hatfield/Brian Allen

SS: Tevin Carter/Jason Thompson

FS: Marcus Williams/Jason Thompson

CB: Reginald Porter/Cory Butler-Byrd

NB: Justin Thomas/Boobie Hobbs

Special Teams:

Punter: Tom Hacktt

Kicker: Andy Phillips

Kick Off: Andy Phillips

LS: Chase Dominguez

PR: Boobie Hobbs

KR: Cory Butler-Byrd/Bubba Poole

Holder: Tom Hackett


Utah comes into this game toting an injury-laden offense, losing star RB Devontae Booker to an MCL-tear against Arizona as well as WRs Britain Covey and Kenneth Scott against UCLA and Colorado. These three players have contributed more than half of Utah’s scoring offensive production combining for 19 of 37 TDs the Utes have scored this season. The Utes will rely heavily on the run game, running the ball on 61% of their plays on offense. BYU will have to control the LOS and stay assignment sound in order to get stops on defense. Otherwise, Utah will be able to control the clock and keep the ball out of BYU’s hands for the majority of games.

The most important player on offense for the Utes will be QB Travis Wilson who will be donning a Utah uniform for the final time on Saturday. Wilson is Utah’s career leader in games played and starts with 45 and 38, and is second in career wins with 23 and is also the career leader in total TDs with 74 for his career. For his senior year, Wilson has started 11 games and completed 186-298 passes for 13 TDs and 10 INTs while also rushing for 467 yds and 6 TDs. Travis will be a difference maker in this game and has had plenty of experience in leading his teams to victory in clutch situations most notably on the road against #8 UCLA last season.

Utah’s game plan will be a run oriented attack even without Devontae Booker. While Booker has been the keystone of the offense being involved in 33.5% of their plays and contributing to 35% of their over all protection. But even with his loss, Joe Williams has stepped in nicely for Booker rushing for 308 yds in the two games that he’s started this year. Expect Bubba Poole to be take some snaps at RB as well after moving to slot receiver this season. Poole has rushed for 26 yds and 1 TD on the season on 8 carries, but he’ll be used to catch passes out of the backfield and has 24 catches for 145 yds on the season.

Utah has a depleted receiving core, Britain Covey and Kenneth Scott are the teams two leading receivers and are both questionable heading into the Holy War. Covey exploded onto the scene as a freshman after being under-recruited despite a successful prep career as a QB at Timpview HS in Provo. Covey has a team high 41 catches for 518 yds and 4 TDs. Scott has stepped up providing senior leadership for this team when they most needed it, he has 38 catches for 448 yds and 4 TDs. If those two aren’t ready to go, expect Bubba Poole and TE Harrison Handley to get plenty of targets. Handley is the third string TE and has been a revelation for the Utah offense recording 19 catches for 270 yds and 4 TDs. With the injuries and lack of experience in the receiving core, it is possible that back up QB Kendall Thompson may see some time at the receiver position.

The secret behind Utah’s success on offense has been the Offensive Line which has 102 career starts. They’ll be anchored at center by senior Siaso Aiono who has 30 career starts. He’s joined by JJ Dielman at RT and Isaac Asiata at LG who have 25 and 29 starts respectively. Dielman has come onto the scene and has shown NFL potential at the RT position. The OL will be a formidable match up for Bronson Kaufusi and Travis Tuiloma who have each had big seasons.

2015 Team Stats:

Points Scored Per Game: 30.2

Rushing Yardage: 2253

Receiving Yardage: 2269

Passing Yardage: 2269

Total Offense: 6791

Fumbles: 24

      Recovered: 14

      Lost: 10

Interceptions: 11

Sacks Allowed: 20 (-139 yds)

First Downs: 249

        Rushing: 128

        Passing: 99

        Penalty: 22

Third Down Conversion: 77/185 (42%)

Fourth Down Conversion: 14/20 (70%)

Penalties: 65 (-617 yds)

Red Zone Efficiency: 39/43 (91%)

Red Zone TDs: 25/43 (58%)

PAT Attempts: 42/42 (100%)

Individual Stats:

2015 Season

QB Travis Wilson: 186/298 for 2024 yds, 13 TDs and 10 INTs, 125 carries for 467 yds and 6 TDs; RB Joe Williams: 79 carries for 386 yds and 1 TD, 9 catches for 62 yds; WR Britain Covey: 41 catches for 518 yds and 4 TDs; WR Kenneth Scott: 38 catches for 448 yds and 4 TDs; WR Bubba Poole: 24 catches for 145 yds; TE Harrison Handley: 19 receptions for 270 yds and 4 TDs; WR Tyrone Smith: 17 receptions for 178 yds;


Utah’s defense may be the toughest test that BYU will face this season. They run a 4-3 which is stocked with a very talented front seven filled with NFL-caliber players in the two deep. They’ll be anchored up front on the DL by Lowell Lotulelei and Jason Fanaika and in the LB core by Gionni Paul and Jarred Norris who have both had breakout seasons as seniors. The Utes employ a four-and-score mentality on the defense where they aim to force four TOs and score one defensive TD each game.

Utah’s DL is very talented and they are possibly 6-7 deep up front. The starters will be Fanaika and Fitts on the outside and Lotulelei and Mokofisi shoring up the middle. They excel in getting after the QB and shutting down the run and have only allowed 9 rushing TDs on the season. Expect Pita Taumoepenu and Viliseni Faounuku to also see plenty of playing time. Utah’s DL has combined for 47 TFL and 25 tackles on the season. Jason Faniaka and Kylie Fitts lead the team in total tackles with 50 and 40, respectively. BYU has been very good in pass blocking against talented DLs this year but have struggled in the run game, whoever controls the LOS in this matchup will come out triumphant.

For as good as Utah’s DL may be, Utah’s LB follow closely behind. Gionni Paul and Jarred Norris are big time play makers combining for 195 tackles, 19 TFL, and 4 sacks. Paul is the most versatile player on Utah’s defense adding 4 INTs and 3 PBU to his stat line. Jason Whittingham rounds out the backer core and has tallied 25 tackles, 6 TFL, and 1.5 sacks on the season. BYU will need to control these player in order to win this matchup.

Utah’s secondary is the weak spot in the defense, they’ve been banged up with injuries and suspensions this season losing Domo Hatfield to start the season and Chase Hansen who took the starting Strong Safety role from Tevin Carter midway through the season. With Hansen’s season ending injury, Carter has recaptured the starting position but is struggling with an injury of his own while expecting to play. Carter lead the team in INTs with 5 for 88 yds. Cory Butler-Byrd has also been a talented playmaker in the secondary with 4 INTs and 4 PBU as well as 7 QBH on the season. BYU should have a big advantage in this game with their strength being in the receiver core.

2015 Team Stats:

Points Allowed Per Game: 21.8

Turnover Ratio: 29:23

Forced Fumbles: 22

      Fumbles Recovered: 12

Interceptions: 19

Sacks: 33 (-234 yds)

TFL: 86 (-343 yds)

QBH: 29

PBU: 55

INTs: 19 (231 yds, 1 TD)

TDs allowed: 29

      Rushing: 9

      Passing: 20

First Downs Allowed: 232

      Rushing: 77

      Passing: 136

      Penalty: 19

Third Down Conversion: 68/176 (39%)

Fourth Down Conversion: 10/20 (50%)

Red Zone Efficiency: 34/42 (81%)

Red Zone TDs: 22/42 (52%)

PAT Attempts: 29/29 (100%)

Key Defensive Players:

2015 Season

LB Gionni Paul: 109 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 4 INT, 3 PBU, 1 QBH, 3 FR, 2 FF; LB Jared Norris: 86 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 1 sack, 5 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FR, 2 FF; FS Marcus Williams: 63 tackles, 1 TFL, 5 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FR; SS Tevin Carter: 56 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FR; DE Jason Fanaika: 50 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 PBU, 2 QBH, 2 FF; NB Justin Thomas: 42 tackles, 1 TFL, 3 INT, 4 PBU, 7 QBH; DE Kylie Fitts: 40 tackles, 7 TFL, 6 sacks, 10 PBU, 1 QBH, 3 FF, 1 BK; CB Reggie Porter: 35 tackles, 7 PBU; Viliseni Faounuku: 33 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 FF; Cory Butler-Byrd: 29 tackles, .5 TFL, 3 INT, 4 PBU, 7 QBH, 1 BK; Domonique Hatfield: 28 tackles, .5 TFL, 3 INT, 2 PBU, 5 QBH;

Special Teams:

Utah’s specialists are widely considered the best in the country and are led by All-American Punter Tom Hackett and Kicker Andy Phillips. Britain Covey has been the teams primary punt returner and has been able to flip the field for them several times, but with his status going into the game being questionable, it’s uncertain what impact the Utes will have in the return game. But, they are able to flip the field and pin offenses deep in their own territory which has given them plenty of momentum to win games this season.


Andy Phillips: 42/42 PAT, 23/27 PAT, 1-29 yds: 3/3, 30-39: 12/12, 40+: 8/12


Andy Phillips: 75 KO, 4521 yds, 60.3 avg, 19 TB, 2 OOB


Tom Hackett: 55 punts, 2628 yds, 27.8 avg, 76 lg, 8 TB, 21 FC, 24 i20, 20 50+

Kick Returns:

Cory Butler-Byrd: 8 returns for 223 yds, 27.9 avg, 1 TD, 98 lg

Britain Covey: 6 returns for 147 yds, 24.5 avg, 36 lg

Boobie Hobbs: 2 returns for 34 yds, 17 avg, 17 lg

Punt Returns:

Britain Covey: 21 returns for 246 yds, 11.7 avg, 1 TD, 77 lg

Boobie Hobbs: 9 returns for 79 yds, 8.8 avg, 1 TD, 69 lg


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