Despite a dreadful offensive start and the flurry of turnovers that the Utes committed on Saturday, sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley believes the offense can compete against any defense in the country. However, right now they’re a little lost and have got to “find ourselves.”
Coming off a game in which Utah’s offensive miscues — including seven turnovers — cost them a chance to potentially knock off the No. 19 team in the nation and clinch at least a .500 record, Utah (5-5, 2-5) must now prepare for the Pac-12 Conference’s best defensive team and one of the top units in the entire Football Bowl Subdivision in No. 16 Washington.
“I feel like we’ll be successful against any team,” Huntley said. “It’s just we’ve got to go out and do our job. I feel like we can do that. We look at every team the same. We’re in Pac-12, so we’re going to compete like we’re in the Pac-12.”
Washington State came into this past weekend’s game ranked 10th in FBS in fewest yards allowed per game. Washington State succeeded in creating chaos with its pass rush — Huntley was sacked seven times — and also took advantage of the Utes’ failure to protect the football with four interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
Even with their penchant for giving the ball away, the Utes gained 367 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per play and registered 27 first downs. Huntley also eclipsed 300 yards passing for the third time this season. This time, he did it without the Pac-12′s leading receiver as Darren Carrington II sat out with an injury.
Of course, turnovers constantly wiped away their offensive success. Earlier in the season, the red zone seemed to be their Achilles heel. Fixing the offensive shortcomings has been like trying to hit a moving target.
“Every game that we lost this year, it’s been the problems we [caused] that kept us from doing what we should be doing,” Huntley said. “Wazzu did a good job of just taking our wrongs and making into a right for them.”
Utah at No. 16 Washington
When • Saturday, 8:30 p.m. MST
TV • ESPN
This weekend, the Huskies (8-2, 5-2) figure to raise the bar even higher for the Utes offense. Through 10 games, the Huskies rank among the top five in FBS in rushing defense (fourth), passing yards allowed (third), total defense (fourth) and scoring defense (second).
The only FBS team in the country allowing fewer points per game than the Huskies (13.0) this season has been powerhouse Alabama (11.2 ppg). While the Huskies will be coming off of a loss on the road to Stanford, a place where they’ve traditionally struggled, they’ll host the Utes at Husky Stadium.
The Huskies have held three of their five opponents at Husky Stadium this season to seven points or fewer.
“They’re a lot different M.O. as far as their scheme,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said, contrasting the Huskies defense with Washington State’s. “They don’t slant and move much at all. They have an outstanding front three. … They’re talented at linebacker, talented in the secondary. Even though they did los their top corners to injury, the guys they’ve got playing now are doing a find job.
“Really, they’re more just line up and punch you in the face whereas Washington State beat you with movements and slants and athleticism.”
Whittingham singled out Washington’s defensive tackle Vita Vea as one of the top players at that position in the country. A 6-foot-5, 340-pound junior, Vea earned preseason AP All-America honors and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection last season.
The Utes rushed for just 62 yards against Washington State while its star defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa wreaked havoc with eight tackles (five for a loss), three sacks and forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
“We’ve got see if we can get something going,” Whittingham started to say of the running attack before he caught himself and amended his statement. “We have to get something going if we want to have a chance to win.”
Where they rank in FBS
Rushing yards allowed: Fourth (101.5 per game)
Passing yards allowed: Third (155.9 per game)
Pass efficiency defense: Tenth (106.62)
Total defense: Fourth (257.4)<b>Scoring defense: Second (13.0 ppg)