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Five Things We Learned From Utah's Victory Over Michigan


Utah delivered in the national spotlight, beating Michigan for the second consecutive season. The Utes took down the Wolverines 24-17 on Thursday night in Jim Harbaugh's first game as head coach. Utah never trailed from the opening snap and improved to 12-1 overall in regular season non-conference games since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.

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How will the victory over Michigan translate to the rest of Utah's season? Here are five things we learned about the Utes after week one:

1. Utah's defense delivers yet again

It might be easy to look at how Utah failed to record a sack and conclude the defense has taken a step back from 2014. That's simply not the case. The Utes found other ways to put their defensive stamp on the game. Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock wilted under the pressure and threw three interceptions – with Justin Thomas returning the final one 55 yards in the fourth quarter for the game-clinching TD. Utah also held Michigan to 76 yards rushing on 2.6 yards per carry. Utah's defense is poised to once again give many other teams fits.

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2. Britain Covey is a rising star at receiver

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham repeatedly singled out Covey as one of the most impressive performers in fall camp. The true freshman showed why he earned that praise in the season opener. Covey finished his first game as the team's top receiver. He hauled in five passes for 58 yards and tacked on a 14-yard punt return for good measure.

3. Travis Wilson is a more confident quarterback

Wilson showed that his impressive performance in the 2014 Las Vegas Bowl was no fluke. The senior played with poise and confidence against Michigan. Wilson threw for 208 yards on 24-of-33 passing and also rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown. His passes were on target and Wilson made plays with his feet when Devontae Booker was stifled by the Wolverine defense. It represented a nice step forward for Wilson, who lost his starting job at one point a year ago.

4. Special teams showed some rust but will improve

Utah dealt with some uncharacteristic struggles from its special teams. Tom Hackett was bright spot as usual, unloading a career-long 74-yard punt. On the other hand, Andy Phillips had a rough opening game. Phillips went 1-of-3 on field goal attempts. The junior kicker made one from 30 yards, but missed from 48 and 46 yards. There isn't much reason to feel alarmed. Such a performance feels like an aberration for Phillips. He made 40-of-48 field goal attempts during his first two seasons and is likely to convert at a similar rate this season.

5. Gionni Paul needs to keep cool

One of the things that makes Paul such an effective linebacker is his aggressive play. He is all over the place and finds a way to disrupt all sorts of plays. It helped Paul lead Utah with 14 tackles. His aggressive streak also led to a couple of ill-timed late hits. Both plays resulted in 15-yard penalties and the second one kept Michigan's first touchdown drive alive. Paul is a valuable part of the Ute defense and needs to stay on the field. He just needs to dial back the aggressiveness enough so he doesn't slow down defensive momentum.

Written by John Coon,who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.