Utes must rediscover running game in Vegas
One of Utah's priorities against Boise State in Wednesday night's MAACO Bowl Las Vegas will be revitalizing its ground game.
If they want to upset the Broncos, the Utes must run the football effectively to take pressure off quarterback Terrance Cain and keep Boise's high-powered offense off the field.
As good as the Broncos are on offense, they are just as dominant defensively, especially against the run.
"They really have no weakness," said Utah co-offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick. "I sure don't see one."
Said running back Eddie Wide: "I see a great team. Real physical guys. They come up and hit you. Just a real fast team."
Boise State is tied for sixth in the country in rushing defense.
The Broncos allow only 103.5 yards per game, despite giving up 269 to Nevada and 250 to Utah State in their final two games.
"They fly around," said Utah running back Matt Asiata. "Their defense is very disciplined and they are quick to the ball."
This season, Boise State held six of its 12 opponents to less than 80 rushing yards, including Wyoming (minus-21), San Jose State (minus-12), Hawaii (45), Fresno (49), Toledo (65) and Oregon State (78).
"They are really good up front," Roderick said. "The front seven is as good as anybody we've seen."
The Broncos rank second in the nation in quarterback sacks with 45 one behind Florida State.
"They are not a huge blitz team," Roderick said. "So, with all those sacks, that says a lot about the ability of the front seven."
Early in the season, one of Utah's strengths was running the football.
In their first eight games, the Utes averaged 191.5 yards on the ground, with a season-high 272 against San Jose State.
In the last four games, however, Utah averaged 74.5 yards in losses to TCU (47-7) and Notre Dame (28-3) and come-from-behind wins over San Diego State (38-34) and BYU (17-16).
The Utes managed only 51 yards rushing against TCU and 71 against Notre Dame. Their longest run in those two games was 13 yards.
Part of the reason for the modest rushing numbers: Utah trailed most of the way in all four games.
TCU led by 20 points in the first quarter, Notre Dame by 18 early in the third quarter, San Diego State by 17 late in the second quarter and BYU by 13 in the third quarter.
Playing from behind often translates into a more pass-oriented offense, although Roderick said, "â¦ No excuses. We just haven't been running the ball very well. We have to run the ball better."
There is no choice against Boise, apparently. And the job falls to seniors Wide and Asiata, who will play their final game at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Wide averages 48 yards on 11 carries in the Utes' last four games. Asiata averages 46 yards on nine carries.
But neither is concerned about the state of Utah's running game.
"Not at all," Wide said. "We're going to come and do what you have to do."
Said Asiata: "I've always believed in our running game and I believe in our coaches, with the play-calling.
"We've got to keep grinding just keep grinding and do our best when our number is called."
According to Roderick, the Utes won't do anything different against the Broncos. But they must improve their execution.
"I don't think the answers lie in running new plays or changing the offense," he said. "We just need to get back to some basics. â¦
"We've taken a good look at what we did well early in the season and honed in on those things for this game."
The top rushing defenses in the country during the 2010 season:
Gms Att Yds Avg/Play Avg/Game
1. Boston College 12 362 962 2.66 80.17
2. West Virginia 12 374 1,021 2.73 85.08
3. TCU 12 345 1,070 3.10 89.17
4. Ohio State 12 373 1,132 3.03 94.33
5. Kent State 12 434 1,166 2.69 97.17
6. Boise State 12 432 1,242 2.88 103.50
7. Iowa 12 378 1,242 3.29 103.50
8. Utah 12 414 1,250 3.02 104.17
9. South Carolina 12 422 1,356 3.21 104.31
10. Central Florida 12 419 1,435 3.42 110.38
Las Vegas Bowl
P Boise State vs. Utah
Wednesday, Dec. 22, 6 p.m.
TV • ESPN
Tickets • Visit http://www.utahtickets.com or call 801-581-UTIX (8849).