by Daniel Olsen
There were several players in the state of Utah that were impressive over the weekend. While not all could advance, they had several noteworthy individual performances. Let’s take a look at the top five players of the weekend from the Beehive State.
Matt Gay, former Ute and Lou Groza award winner, had a good performance over the weekend for the Los Angeles Rams. While it still resulted in a loss, he did everything within his power to help his team win. He converted on his one field goal attempt from 37 yards and converted on his one PAT. It was a small sample size but still worthy of recognition.
While the Saints came on the losing end to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ute alumni Marcus Williams still had a productive night. He finished the night with five tackles and four of them being solos.
5. Sione Takitaki
Former BYU Cougar Sione Takitaki played with a high level of tenacity but it also resulted in a 17-22 loss. He did finish the game with five tackles and three of them being solo ones. While his Browns did lose to the defending Super Bowl Champion Chiefs, he still did a great job and helped his team win a playoff game for the first time since 1994. I give him a slight edge over Williams. They had the same amount of tackles so he really made the difference by keeping the score close and giving the Browns a legitimate chance to win.
4. Tyler Huntley
With Lamar Jackson sidelined due to a hard hit, former practice squad QB and Ute alumni Tyler Huntley was under center. As a whole, the Ravens struggled. However, Huntley did his best considering the circumstances. He completed 6/13 passes for 60 yards. While he was sacked, he did not allow an interception like Jackson did.
That interception would prove to be costly so Huntley didn’t do anything to cost his team the game. It was basically out of reach by the time he got the chance to start. He also had three rushing attempts for 32 yards. That gave him a team high 10.7 yards per carry and his high was a 19 yard rush that was the longest of any Ravens player. Huntley’s number was called and he did what he could to make a name for himself. He still isn’t a starter by any means but he’s proven he can be a reliable backup. Maybe he can be groomed to be a starter at some point in the future.
3. Jamaal Williams
While Jamaal Williams came out on the winning end, that is not the reason for his favorable ranking. He was the second leading rusher on a team that nearly doubled the output of the Los Angeles Rams. As a team, they ran for 188 yards. With 65 yards on the ground on 12 carries, Jamaal Williams produced a third of the rushing yards. He did the best with what he had as he got exactly a third of the carries as well. His longest catch was for 11 yards.
While he did not score a touchdown, his productive night led to several scores in a 32-18 win. He will have a chance to help beat Tom Brady and the Buccaneers this coming Sunday. The game will be broadcast at 1:05 PM MST on FOX.
2. Dan Sorensen
As his nickname suggests, “Dirty Dan” Sorensen got down and dirty. In a low scoring affair, he helped lead the Chiefs to a 22-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns. He tied for the most tackles of anyone on this list with six total. Four of his tackles were solos and he did get a hit on the QB. His biggest play was a hit at the pylon that resulted in a touchback.
That play turned out to be the difference in the game. Had he not forced the fumble, the Browns would have scored a touchdown and brought the score within 10-16. Instead, the Chiefs got the ball back and scored a field goal before halftime to go up 19-3. It proved to be too much for the Browns to overcome even with Patrick Mahomes going down with a concussion. Big time players make big time plays and that’s exactly what Sorensen did.
1. Taron Johnson
The big time play of the day wasn’t made by an Aggie, Cougar or Ute. It was made by a former Weber State Wildcat of the Big Sky Conference. The FCS usually doesn’t get as much notoriety so it is entertaining to see guys at that level make it big in the NFL. That is exactly what the third year cornerback for the Buffalo Bills did.
Johnson tallied six tackles with all of them being solos. One was for a loss. He also got a pass deflection which is the second best stat a cornerback can record. He also had the best play of the game which turned out to be a 101 yard touchdown return off an interception. This swung the game by giving the Bills a 17-3 advantage at the end of the third quarter which they would maintain. Without this play, the Ravens possibly tie the game up and it’s anybody’s game.
This pick six is the longest return not only in these playoffs, but in playoff history. The longest interception return in NFL history was made by Ed Reed in 2008. He ironically played for the Ravens at the time. Johnson one-upped Reed at least by the fact that he made the biggest play ever in a much more important game in the AFC Divisional round of the NFL playoffs. Johnson will get another chance to shine next week when the Buffalo Bills take on the Kansas City Chiefs this coming weekend. The game will be broadcast on CBS on Sunday, January 24, 2021. Kickoff will start at 4:40 PM MST.
As wild as the first ever NFL Super Wild Card weekend was even wilder. Only the Browns and Chiefs was a one-possession game and that was mostly due to Mahomes being out for a large portion of the game. However, there were so many crazy plays that swung the game. From the Brees interceptions in his final showdown against Tom Brady, to the interception return by Johnson in the Bills vs Ravens, to the brilliance of Aaron Rodgers against the Rams, this was an even wilder weekend and former players of colleges in Utah were a large part of it.
Featured image © Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle