Utah football notes: Falcons' defense has Utes' respect
Air Force is best known for its ground-control offense, but the Falcons' defense is getting plenty of respect from the Utes this week too.
Air Force ranks seventh nationally in scoring defense (11.9), fourth in passing defense (139.1) and 53rd in rushing defense (127.6).
"They always run a 3-4 defense and their guys are tough, it's always a hard-nosed game when you play Air Force," offensive lineman Caleb Schlauderaff said. "They can bring pressure from a lot of places and you can't see it coming. They can blitz four backers, walk them up or drop them back and it can be confusing at times."
The Utes liken the defense a little to what they encountered at Oregon, which finished with 312 yards against them and to what they've seen against Wyoming in the past.
Having an experienced center in Zane Taylor is a benefit to the Utes, Schlauderaff said.
"He helps out so much, he points out who does all the blocking and scheming, there is a lot going on pre-snap," he said.
Putting together long scoring drives like they anticipate they must do against the Falcons has been a problem for the Utes this season. However, they feel better about their productivity after the UNLV game.
The Utes were 5-of-10 in third down conversions and scored on all three trips to the red zone.
However, that success came against one of the worst defenses in the country, the Utes expect things to be more difficult Saturday.
"Air Force makes yo go on these long 12, 14, 16-play drives," offensive lineman Zane Beadles said. "We know we have to be out there for a long time and be disciplined."
"They are one of the best in scoring defense and that is the most important stat," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Mentality-wise, they are the same on defense as they are on offense. They are tough, disciplined and make few mistakes."
Who is that guy
Tight end Ben Hendy was a rare selection to Utah's weekly press conference after he caught three passes for 27 yards and a touchdown against UNLV.
Prior to that game, the Utes had only one completed pass to a tight end this season, one that went for a 2-yard loss to Brad Clifford .
Hendy, who was enjoying his bit of brief fame, said he hopes his production encourages the Utes to throw to the tight ends more, although he knows in Utah's scheme they'll continue to be used primarily as blockers.
"When we throw out of the two-tight end package, it makes defenses not be as aggressive downhill as they might have been," he said. "Sometimes they really tee off on us, thinking we are one-dimensional, and that can help."
Whittingham has been adamant that he doesn't want running back Eddie Wide to average more than 15 to 20 carries a game. He said he is sticking to that number because he wants to make sure Wide is "available for the entire season," and isn't tempted to up his carries even though he is averaging 5.8 yards a carry.
"That is where he functions best," Whittingham said.