All were part of Fox Sports 1’s Saturday night broadcast from Salt Lake City that also included Washington State, if only peripherally.
The 38-13 Utes victory, snapping a four-game losing streak to WSU, featured a dominating performance from quarterback Tyler Huntley, but also Anthony Gordon’s least effective outing of the season.
What they saw
• FS1 featured a three-man booth, led by Justin Kutcher doing the play-by-play. He was joined by Petros Papadakis and former California running back Shane Vereen handling the analysis.
There’s one thing about a three-man booth: It’s usually one person too many. Such was the case Saturday night. The man who should have been out? Vereen. The former Patriots running back supplied the least germane insights.
For example, on Washington State’s first possession, the Cougars were forced to punt. On WSU’s unsuccessful third-down attempt, the Utes rushed just three and dropped eight into coverage. Though Gordon had almost unlimited time, he was unable to find anyone open.
Vereen’s take on the Utes’ defense? “They’re starting off aggressive,” he said. Not really.
And it really didn’t get much better.
Whereas Papadakis would pingpong between humor and analysis, Vereen, to his credit, tried to stay focused on the action. Most of his comments, however, relied too often on clichés.
• With 19th-ranked Utah’s easy victory, the key to the game was hard to miss. And the trio in the booth didn’t.
“If Utah is able to win this game,” Kutcher said midway through the third quarter with the Utes (4-1, 1-1 in the Pac-12) leading 24-13, “it is what they’ve been able to do on third down that will get them a victory.”
“It’s what Tyler Huntley’s been able to do on third down,” Vereen quickly added.
Huntley, who was the focus of the Utes’ offense with star running back Zack Moss out with an injury, threw for 334 yards, completing 21 of 30 passes. He also rushed for 31 more yards.
Sadly, though, there was never a graphic showing how much of that came on third down.
We checked. Huntley was 8-of-9 passing for 108 yards and one touchdown between third and fourth down.
On the other side, Gordon struggled against the ever-changing Utah defense. The senior was 30-of-49 passing for a season-low 252 yards. He also threw two interceptions. And the Cougars (3-2, 0-2) were just 3 of 11 on third down.
• Just 9 seconds into the second quarter, lightning was seen in the Salt Lake City area. Officials told Jessamyn McIntyre, Cougars radio’s sideline reporter, it was 30 miles away, some 24 miles too far to suspend play.
But not for Fox to pull its cameramen from their positions.
For the next half hour, viewers only saw the action either from the high camera position or other stadium-centric spots.
Kutcher explained three times that safety was the priority, with the lightning forcing the camera lockdown. The next 9 minutes of game time rolled without the yellow first-down line or instant replay, extras viewers have come to expect. We did, however, have multiple views of the Utah band and a group of students.
One thing is obvious. The players’ union doesn’t have the pull the camera operators’ union does. Oh, wait: The players don’t have a union.
What we saw
• If you watched any college football Saturday on one of Fox’s channels, you were bombarded with calls to make calls. The network wanted its viewers to call Dish Satellite TV and register their displeasure with the entity for dropping Fox’s different stations in a dispute over finances.
One of those stations, Fox Sports 1, has left the satellite carrier as well as Sling TV, famous more for the stars of its commercials than for its service. Washington State (and Utah) fans wanting to watch the game at home via Dish were out of luck. It took some hoop jumps – and access of another provider – to watch the game.
The most popular? According to Twitter, it seemed to be a free trial of YouTube TV, which still had access to FS1.
• The best line of the night came from Papadakis, the former USC player and current Southern California radio host.
There were multiple promos for an upcoming pro wrestling match, featuring some legends, including Hulk Hogan.
That caught Kutcher’s eye. “Hulk Hogan, my all-time favorite, just saying,” Kutcher said.
“That’s like rooting for the New England Patriots,” Papadakis jabbed.