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Utah football: Utes' defense smothers Washington State

Published November 3, 2012 6:44 pm

College football • Utes limit the Cougars to a mere 116 total yards for the game.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah was disappointed about wasting the opportunity to throw a shutout, which would have been its first since joining the Pac-12.

Still, the main goals during Utah's 49-6 victory Saturday against visiting Washington State were accomplished.

"We were pretty disappointed," Utah defensive end Joe Kruger said. "But it's all right. We killed them."

Truly, from the opening snap, Utah declared open season on WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel.

And like any group of good hunters, Utah's defenders took time to measure their quarry — habits, tendencies, weak spots.

Once the Utes locked their sites in, there was no escape for Tuel. He was replaced in the third quarter, but it was not much better for Tuel's backup, Connor Halliday.

Even without injured cornerback Ryan Lacy, the Utes dominated.

"We focused on their spread," said Ute corner Reggie Topps, who led Utah with seven tackles. "We only rushed three or four and were still bringing pressure. We knew we had to play for [Lacy]."

The first half dictated the game's direction.

Utah's offense certainly did its part, gaining nearly 300 yards with four touchdowns.

Utah's defense, however, more than played its part, including containing WSU to 116 total yards.

The Utes compiled a game's worth of defensive stats in the first 30 minutes.

The Utes pressured Tuel unmercifully, sacking the senior five times. The pressure paid off when Topps intercepted Tuel to set up a field goal and a 24-0 lead with 3:04 to play in the half.

The Cougars, who came in with the worst run game in the Pac-12 — 1.6 yards an attempt — were held to minus-4 yards rushing, due to the loss of 31 yards in sacks.

"Our five couldn't whip their two," WSU coach Mike Leach said. "Sometimes they only brought two. ... Which means if five of our guys went into an alley and got in a fight with two of theirs, we would have gotten massacred."

Washington State managed just two drives of any consequence in the first half, and both petered out on fourth down. Trevor Reilly batted down a fourth-down pass to halt one drive and Jason Whittingham sacked Tuel to stop another.

Reilly also contributed two sacks in the half, joining Kruger, who had a sack and a half, Tenny Palepoi and Topps, who were also hunting Tuel in the WSU backfield. —

Highlights

• Utah holds Washington State to minus-4 yards rushing, the fifth fewest yards ever gained by a Ute opponent.

• Utah records a season-high six sacks, including two by Trevor Reilly and 11/2 by Joe Kruger.