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2021 Season Review: Notes, Facts, Statistics

Feb 1, 2022

The No. 11 University of Utah Football team finished the 2021 season 10-4 overall, winning the Pac-12 South with an 8-1 record while claiming its first-ever Pac-12 Championship with a win over Oregon in the championship game. The season culminated in Pasadena, Calif., where the Utes played in the 108th Rose Bowl Game, their first appearance in the Rose Bowl in program history.  

Utah finished the 2021 season 10-4 overall, the eighth straight season with a winning record. Under the direction of head coach Kyle Whittingham, the Utes have finished with a winning record in 15 of his 17 years.

Utah will return 17 starters in 2022, including eight on offense, six on defense and all three specialists.
•    Utah will return three of its five starting offensive linemen in Keaton Bills (LG), Sataoa Laumea (RG) and Braeden Daniels (RT), along with Jaren Kump (LT/RT), who started all five games in 2020 and in four in 2021 before suffering a season-ending injury.
•    Out of the 3,000 receiving yards in 2021, 2,111 will return in 2022, including 1,121 returning from tight ends Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid (37%).
•    Utah saw 22 different players earn at least one start on defense this season with 13 returning in 2022. Of those 13, nine will still be underclassmen (Junior Tafuna, DT, 11 starts; Aliki Vimahi, DT, 2 starts; Van Fillinger, DE, 13 starts; Karene Reid, LB, 6 starts; Zemaiah Vaughn, CB, 4 starts; Faybian Marks, CB, 7 starts; Clark Phillips III, 14 starts; Kamo'i Latu, S, 1 start; Cole Bishop, S, 11 starts).  

With a strong finish to the season comes strong statistical rankings for the Utes. Utah finished the season leading the Pac-12 in rushing, total and scoring offense along with sacks and tackles for loss.
•    The Utes finished eighth nationally in third down conversion percentage, converting on 48.2% of its third down attempts. Utah also ranked seventh in the FBS in first downs offense, producing 340 in 14 games.
•    Utah's tradition of having a strong kick return game continued this season, wrapping up 2021 ranked 13th nationally in kickoff returns (25.81) and sixth in punt returns (15.13).
•    The Utes strong running back room and solid offensive line produced the 13th-best rushing offense in the country (216.8) in 2021 with the offensive line only allowing 0.93 sacks per game, which ranked fourth nationally.
•    Utah ended the season 14th in the FBS in scoring offense (36.1),
•    Utah was one of just two Power Five programs to finish the season in the top 20 in the FBS in both rushing offense and rushing defense (Baylor). Utah ranked 13th in rushing offense (216.8) and 19th in rushing defense (119.4).
•    Utah's front seven were relentless this season on defense with the Utes ranking 19th in team sacks (3.00) and 21st in team tackles for loss (6.9) per game in the country.

Utah finished the 2021 season ranked 11th in the College Football Playoff Poll and 12th in both the AP and Coaches polls. It is the fourth time that the Utes have landed inside the top-15 in the final AP Poll and its 10th appearance in the final poll overall.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham is the longest-tenured coach in the Pac-12 and the second-longest tenured coach at the same school in the NCAA FBS. He is 144-70 overall at Utah, becoming the all-time wins leader at Utah in 2021. He passed Ike Armstrong (141-55-15 in 211 games) with Utah's historic win over No. 3 Oregon on Nov. 20, 2021. He has coached in 339 games at Utah (11 seasons as an assistant) and 214 as the head coach.
•    He has contributed to more victories than any coach in program history (229), including his 11 seasons as an assistant coach (1994-2004).
•    His 144 career wins as the head coach of the Utes ranks third among active FBS coaches at the same school and ranks 15th among active FBS coaches overall (most in the Pac-12).
•    He has led the Utes to at least a share of the Pac-12 South title in three of the last four seasons, and four times overall since joining the Pac-12 (2021, 2019, 2018, 2015 *shared title).
•    He has won three National Coach of the Year recognitions – two in 2008 and one in 2019. He was the AFCA Coach of the Year and Bear Bryant Award winner in 2008, and the Dodd Trophy Coach of the Year in 2019, also winning Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2019 and 2021.
•    The Utes have made the final AP Top 25 seven times and the final Coaches Poll eight times under Whittingham.
•    Whittingham has had 30 players make major All-America teams (those determining the NCAA's consensus team).

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Andy Ludwig wrapped up his third year of his second full-time stint on the Utah coaching staff in 2021. In his three seasons as the leader of the Utah offense, the Utes have led the Pac-12 in rushing offense twice (2019, 2021) with Utah also leading the league in scoring and total offense in 2021.
•    In Pac-12 games only, Utah led the league in scoring offense (37.2), touchdowns scored (45), total offense (454.89), rushing offense (240.78) and passing efficiency (145.7).
•    Utah finished the season ranked seventh in the FBS (1st in the Pac-12) in first downs offense (340), 13th in the FBS and first in the Pac-12 in rushing offense (216.8), 14th in the FBS in scoring offense (36.1), third in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency (141.95) and first in the league in time of possession (30:49).
•    Utah's offense scored 24 of its 37 rushing touchdowns in the last seven games (65%), recording 34 rushing scores during Pac-12 play to lead the league.
•    Utah scored over 30 points in 11 of its 14 games in 2021, including 35+ points in eight of its last nine. It is the most 30-point scoring games the Utes have had in a season in program history.
•    Of Utah's 61 offensive touchdowns scored in 2021, 32 came on drives of 70 yards or longer (52%).
•    Through the first seven games of the season, Utah ranked ninth in the Pac-12 and 75th in the FBS in third down conversions, only converting on 39%. Through 14 games, Utah jumped to third in the league and eighth nationally, converting on 48%.
•    Utah produced 45 points, 36 first downs and 567 yards on its game opening drives, scoring on its first drive of the game seven times.
•    2021 was a season of milestones for the Utes, including scoring their most points in a bowl game (45 vs. Ohio State), the most points against an AP Top 10 opponent in the regular season (38 vs. Oregon), and the most points scored by the Utes in the Coliseum vs. USC (42).
•    Utah's 45-point margin of victory against Stanford tied for the largest in a Pac-12 road game for the Utes and as the second-largest overall in a Pac-12 game. Utah's 440 yards of total offense in the first half against Stanford was the first 400-yard half for the Utes since 2013 (424 vs. Weber State).

The 2021 season marked Morgan Scalley's 14th year on staff at his alma mater and sixth campaign as defensive coordinator. He has additionally coached the safeties since 2008. In his six years as coordinator, Scalley has instilled the culture and identity known as R.S.N.B.—standing for relentless, smart, nasty, ballhawks—and in spite of injuries at multiple positions in 2021, the Utes lived up to the billing on the way to the program's first Pac-12 Championship and first appearance in the Rose Bowl Game.
•    Utah allowed 341.6 yards of offense per game, third in the Pac-12 and No. 16 of all Power Five programs. In six different games, Utah opponents were held under 315 total yards, including three matchups against teams in the final CFP rankings (San Diego State and both games vs. Oregon).
•    The marks were even better in Pac-12 Conference play, as the Utes' nine-game league slate saw teams put up just 332 yards on average—the fewest in the league. Opponents' 20.2 points scored per game were second-lowest.
•    Teams once again struggled on the ground against the league's top rushing defense, mustering just 119.4 yards per game. Utah has led the Pac-12 in rushing defense in four straight seasons (2018-21) and five of Scalley's six as defensive coordinator (2016).
•    Utah was 7-0 in games during the 2021 season when allowing under 100 yards rushing. It includes both wins over Oregon (Nov. 20 in Salt Lake City and Dec. 3 in the Pac-12 Championship).
•    Arguably Utah's best showcases of 'R.S.N.B.' football were against ranked opponents. In the wins over Oregon (ranked No. 3 in the regular season and No. 10 in the Pac-12 title game), Utah pitched first-half shutouts in both games and surrendered just one touchdown per night.
•    Since Scalley took over coordinator duties in 2016, nine Utes have earned postseason All-American honors on the defensive side of the ball.