Utes' defense still solid, team says
The Utah Utes' defense once seemed like an impenetrable wall for opponents. But lately that wall seems to have developed a few cracks.
After giving up just 247.3 yards a game through its first six contests, the Utes gave up 411 yards of total offense to Air Force and 558 yards to TCU.
Despite the large increase the Utes don't believe it is time to panic or fiddle with the lineup as they prepare for Saturday's game at Notre Dame.
"We're still leading the conference in sacks and our pass efficiency is still good," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We can always do better, but for the most part, with the exception of a few big plays, we are doing well."
The Irish' passing offense is rated No. 17 in the country, averaging 288.56 yards while the rushing offense is just No. 100, averaging 113.44 yards a game.
Notre Dame is a below .500 team and heads into the Utah game with a freshman quarterback, but Utah fans still might wonder just how good the Utes' secondary will fare against the Irish considering Andy Dalton picked apart the Utes.
TCU had 381 passing yards against Utah and while the Irish are no where near the level of the Horned Frogs, Utah's secondary might seem a little susceptible after the home loss.
Particularly frustrating for the Utes was TCU's success on third down. The Horned Frogs were 10 of 15 on third-down conversions. TCU went 6 of 8 on third downs of five yards or more, including one in which the Utes had TCU's Casey Pachall stopped for a loss of a yard but his fumble was picked up by a teammate TC James, who ran 25 yards for a touchdown.
That score was the last for the Frogs in the 47-7 win and just added to the Utes' frustrations.
Rather than blame the pass rushers for failing to get more pressure on Dalton or the corners for giving up big plays, Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake pointed the finger at himself.
"We are fine, we just had a bad game, and that is my fault," he said. "I have to get the guys ready to play every week and make sure we don't pat ourselves on our back for wins or dwell on the losses. We have to keep moving forward and there is more urgency to do a better job this week and show what kind of team we can be."
The Utes didn't have linebacker Chad Manis (ankle) or defensive end Junior Tui'one (calf) for the TCU game, but Whittingham refused to use their absences as contributing factors for the defensive play.
"Everybody has injuries," he said. "It doesn't make sense to whine about it or talk about it, you have to move forward."
That is exactly what the Utes plan to do against the Irish, defensive lineman Sealver Siliga said.
"Our defense is good," he said. "We will come out and show everybody how we really play."
Defense on the decline?
First 6 games vs. Air Force vs. TCU
Rushing defense 87.4 210 177
Passing defense 159.9 201 381
Total defense 247.3 411 558
Scoring defense 12.9 23 47
Third down conversions 28-101 4-11 10-15
Fourth-down conversions 3-10 0-3 0-0
No. 15 Utah at Notre Dame
P Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
TV • Ch. 5