After getting burned by Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion for 443 passing yards and five touchdowns, the Utah Utes are looking forward to getting back to defending something they know — the run game.
With BYU averaging 368.5 yards on the ground and just 152 yards passing, the Utes anticipate their run defense will be tested frequently Saturday when the teams meet.
Quarterback Taysom Hill is averaging 150.5 yards rushing while running back Jamaal Williams is averaging 163 yards.
The Utes are giving up just 96.7 yards rushing a game and 297.7 yards passing.
Despite Utah’s issues against the pass in their 51-48 overtime loss to Oregon State, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he doesn’t expect much change in BYU’s offensive philosophy this week, calling it an "intriguing matchup."
"They have a heavy-duty run attack they’ve shown the first two games, so we have our challenges," he said. "But if you look at what we’ve done, our defense has done a good job stopping the run."
The Utes haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. Keeping that streak alive will be a challenge, particularly with the way Hill beat Texas, Utah linebacker Jason Whittingham said.
Hill rushed for 259 yards and three touchdowns in BYU’s 40-21 upset.
"I was definitely impressed myself," Jason Whittingham said. "I just know that it’s a different animal going against that kind of offense that just knifes it up the middle or outside with the quarterback. When you have a quarterback that can do that, your offense can be very dangerous, and we are going to have to work very hard this week to contain him."
As disappointing as it was to lose to Oregon State, the Utes are determined to not let the loss affect them this week.
The Utes made the mistake of letting last year’s loss to Utah State affect them, remembered running back James Poole.
"It was a hard pill to swallow but we know it’s a long season and we still have to get to our goals," Poole said. "It was a loss in the Pac-12 but not the South and that is the big thing for us. We still have a chance to win the South."
Future dates official
Utah and BYU can agree on one thing — when to play in the future.
The two rivals officially signed a contract on Monday for their future dates, with the two schools playing in Provo on Sept. 9, 2017, and in Salt Lake City on Nov. 24, 2018.
Saturday’s contest in Provo marks the last time the teams will meet until 2016, when the teams are scheduled to play in Sept. 10 in Salt Lake City.
Utah has won the last eight of the last 11 games between the teams, including the last three contests.
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