Utah football: Tevita Finau latest star to emerge on defense
Every week there seems to be a different guy stepping up for Utah's defense, with Trevor Reilly, Derrick Shelby and Brian Blechen among those who have enjoyed a little time in the spotlight.
The latest guy to fit that bill is Tevita Finau, a defensive lineman who had three sacks Saturday against Oregon State.
"He is a guy who is getting better and better," Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham said. "He is versatile and can play tackle or end but he got the majority of his production at tackle Saturday. They had him for three sacks [in the official stats], but we had him for four so he made a big impact on the game."
The soft-spoken Finau said his sacks, the first of his career, were a product of the Utes' game plan and not a change in his efforts.
His numbers went up, he said, because he happened to be the guy in the right place at the right time.
"As a defensive line, we've been getting more pressure on the quarterback," he said. "We were focused as a team and came away with some sacks finally."
Finau said defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake keeps thing simple, which works for him.
"He tries to get us to not think a lot and just go off our reactions and reads," Finau said.
Despite his big game, Finau missed out on Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honor Monday. It went to UCLA safety Tevin McDonald who had three interceptions in UCLA's 31-14 win over Cal.
Up for it
The Utes' ground-oriented game not only is challenging for running back John White, who rushed 35 times Saturday, but also his offensive line. Senior lineman Tony Bergstrom said all the running plays reminded him of camp.
"We'd do run drills all the time in 9-on-9 with the defense and we'd go 10 plays in a row of the straight-run game and they'd have nine players in the box, so we have practiced it," he said. "It's starting to feel like camp all over again. We go 9-on-9, then the team runs."
Adding to the pile
The foot injuries sustained by lineman Latu Heimuli and linebacker J.J. Williams in Saturday's win over the Beavers have ended their seasons, as feared.
Heimuli, a backup offensive lineman, suffered a freak foot injury when he planted wrong during pregame warmups.
Williams, a senior, injured his foot during the first quarter and didn't return.
The linebacker has been plagued by foot injuries in recent seasons and played in just two games last year.
He finishes the year with 19 tackles and an interception.
The Utes have lost seven key players to season-ending injuries. Quarterback Jordan Wynn, punt returner Charles Henderson, tight end Dallin Rogers, safety Keith McGill and linebacker Boo Andersen are all out for the year.
The Utes have said all along that depth could be a factor this year and it is becoming a concern now, although Whittingham won't use it as an excuse.
"No doubt that as the level of play increases, the need for more depth increases as well," he said. "We're trying to take steps forward every single year in that direction."
Saturday's game will be televised by KJZZ. â¦ White needs just 85 yards to become the 11th Utah player to gain 1,000 yards in a season. â¦ Utah last played in Tucson in 2004, beating the Wildcats 23-6.