Keys to a Utah win vs. Washington
A few weeks ago I thought the Utes would finish the season winning four of their last five. The loss I thought would come against the Huskies, with the thinking the Utes have played well at home and could beat Arizona in Rice-Eccles Stadium. My feelings still haven't changed on that game and I'm still going with Washington tonight, but this game definitely looks a lot more winnable for the Utes than it did a few weeks ago.
The Utes are doing a much better job with the offense since streamlining it and getting John White more involved. Washington's defense hasn't been that great against the run so if the Utes can get him going early it will bode well for an upset.
Still, one has to wonder how much of Utah's last two wins were a product of poor opponents and how much was attributed to the Utes' improvement. Let's face it, Cal and Washington State were bad teams that had little fight in them. It will be a much better quality opponent the Huskies face today and it would be shocking to see them throw in the towel like Cal and Washington State did. We'll see, but I'm still thinking the Huskies get this one since it is an away game, but it could be close and a Utah win wouldn't be much of a surprise.
Ok, keys to a Utah win.
1. Get White going. The Utes need to make a statement in the first quarter and get some nice, sustained drives with White, just as they have in their recent games. Doing so will let quarterback Travis Wilson settle in and will let Utah's defense stay off the field. Perhaps most importantly it will take Washington's crowd out of the game some and that could be huge for the Utes. CenturyLink Field is loud, really, really loud. In fact, I think my ears are still ringing from watching a U2 show there a few years ago. This could be the loudest, most hostile crowd the Utes face this year. It would be good for the Utes to quiet them early.
2. Get some turnovers. Washington quarterback Keith Price has thrown 10 interceptions and nine touchdowns this year, quite a difference from a year ago when he threw 33 touchdown passes. Some say his struggles relate more to the lack of talent around him than his play. But really it doesn't matter to the Utes, they need to take advantage of his mistakes and come away with interceptions. This would be a good time for Brian Blechen to get his first of the year.
3. Smother Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He is Washington's big-play guy and will be the key player for the Utes to shut down. Utah defensive end Trevor Reilly has done well against tight ends this year and if he draws Seferian-Jenkins, keep an eye on that matchup. Reilly is having a great year and leads the Utes with 50 tackles and four pass breakups.
4. Shut down Washington's run game. As posted previously, the Huskies are 3-1 when back Bishop Sankey hit the 100-yard mark with wins over Portland State, Stanford and Cal and a loss to Oregon. If the Utes can prevent him from making many big runs they'll go a long ways in getting an upset.
5. Keep Price corralled. The Utes didn't finish the job like they should have against UCLA's Brett Hundley, another mobile quarterback similar to Price. But Joe Kruger showed a new level of play against Washington State now that he is healthy. Let's see if he can hunt down Price and get a few sacks.
- Lya Wodraska
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