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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Utah football: Even with talk of air attack, run game still important tonight

Even with all of the talk of USC’s passing attack, the most important aspect of tonight’s game is going to be the run game, for both teams.

The Utes, who are averaging 107.5 rushing yards a game, ranking just 110th nationally, have to find a way to get John White involved in the game early. The Utes need him to have a breakout game for a few reasons. First, the more the Utes can keep the ball on the ground the longer they can keep it out of the hands of USC quarterback Matt Barkley.

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Secondly, the Utes have to get the run game going to take pressure off quarterback Jon Hays, who has been sacked eight times in the last two games.

Finally, a more effective run game has to help Utah’s struggling third-down conversion rate, which is just 19-for-62. A key on Thursday will be for the Utes to get in some short yardage situations and keep the chains moving.

The other key is for White to hang onto the ball. He had two fumbles against ASU and has talked all week about taking better care of the ball. The last thing the Utes need is a turnover deep in their territory.

Defensively, Utah’s players have talked ever since the ASU loss they are a better defense than they showed. The secondary no doubt will be tested, but so too will Utah’s run defense, which ranks 27th nationally giving up 111.25 yards.

USC running back Silas Redd is averaging 5.8 yards a carry. USC likely will try to beat the Utes through the air first, but Utah still can’t afford to give up any big plays to Redd.

- Lya Wodraska

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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