Utah football: Oregon secondary a tough challenge for Utes
If Utah's receivers thought getting open against Arizona State was difficult, Saturday's game against Oregon presents a whole new challenge.
Oregon is fifth in the Pac-12 and 31th nationally in passing defense, giving up 214.4 yards a game while opponents are averaging just 17.9 points.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the Ducks have the best secondary he has seen.
"It's going to be a big challenge for the receivers," he said.
Utah's passing game floundered last week in large part to poor offensive line play that left quarterback Travis Wilson with little time to throw. In the few times when Wilson did have time, he rarely found a guy open.
Wilson completed just six passes in the game, with four going to Dres Anderson for 100 yards and the other two to Sean Fitzgerald for 21 yards.
"They forced me to run more," Wilson said of ASU. "This week, we've got to get more of the passing back."
But how do the Utes do that against a secondary that is even better than ASU's?
Utah receiver Anthony Denham said it's a matter of being better prepared.
"The more knowledge about our assignments the better we do," he said. "Anybody is beatable. Oregon has a great secondary and probably one of the best corners in the nation (Ifo Ekpre-Olomu) but like anybody else, at any time anybody can get beat on a big play."
Denham said Oregon's secondary not only is good because of the talent it has, but because it is accustomed to playing spread teams.
"They really understand what their techniques are when they play receivers," he said. "They don't see run much, they see pass a lot."
The Utes continue to put together good practices, even if the efforts aren't showing in the results. Whittingham is at least happy the Utes aren't showing any signs of breaking as a team.
"They are guys who love to compete and still have a lot to play for," he said. "We're trying to get to a bowl game. That is the No. 1 objective now."
Whittingham said the Utes will use six players on the offensive line, with Isaac Asiata getting more playing time at right tackle. While most of Utah's issues have come on the left side, Whittingham is hesitant to change too much with the starters at this point.
"We have to get back in the groove and play better," he said. "They are very capable and we challenged them this week and they need to respond."