It’s not official yet that Cam Rising won’t play Friday. But with the Utah Utes on a short week, the team’s biggest question mark of the season only gets bigger heading into a matchup against Oregon State.
If Rising remains sidelined, the Utes will try to stay undefeated behind redshirt freshman Nate Johnson — and the team’s suffocating defense. It’ll need to happen against a team that is ranked ninth in the country in rushing offense alone, a team Utah could not beat on the road in 2021.
Here’s everything you need to know for Friday’s game between the No. 10 Utes and the No. 19 Oregon State Beavers.
How to watch Utah vs. Oregon State
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 700 AM/92.1 FM
Weather: Cloudy with a high of 65, 40% chance of rain
Keys to the game
1. Can the Utes find some offense?
Utah scored just 14 points in last week’s win over UCLA. It mustered just 219 yards of total offense.
The offense was so anemic that at one point, the fans booed. Quarterback Nate Johnson even felt the need to apologize for it publicly on social media.
So that will clearly be a focus coming into Friday’s game against Oregon State.
“We have to find some ways, plural, to do a better job of moving the football,” coach Kyle Whittingham said earlier this week.
2. Nate Johnson settling in
Whittingham said last week that Johnson, who has had the bulk of the quarterbacking duties with Rising still sidelined, had between 70-75% of the offensive playbook at his disposal. When asked what could improve in the throw game, Whittingham mentioned it was about Johnson “feeling comfortable” and “going through his progression.”
Whittingham added that Johnson is still young — he is a redshirt freshman — so there is a desire not to put too much on his plate.
“We have to be careful,” Whittingham said.
Whittingham also said that 70-75% will likely be all Johnson will have at his disposal for the foreseeable future.
“We’re not going to expand that just yet,” Whittingham said.
So for now, Johnson has to make do with what he has and continue to perfect what he knows in order to be as effective as possible for the Utes until Rising returns.
3. Continue multidimensional defense
Much has been talked about when it comes to Utah’s defense, but it might have its work cut out for it when it comes to how effectively Oregon State runs the ball.
The Beavers rank ninth in the country in rushing offense at 224.8 yards per game. The Utes don’t want to put themselves in a situation where they’re focusing so much on that aspect of OSU’s offense that they become susceptible to getting beat by the pass.
“We have to have just sound schemes that are not going to be able to be exploited,” Whittingham said. “Really, it comes down to fundamentals and technique up front.”
• Columnist Gordon Monson writes that the Utes have to get their stars back if greatness is their goal. Toughness alone is good, but not enough.
“I’ve got a bunch of respect for Kyle Whittingham and that program. We’re going to need Beaver Nation in a big way Friday night. We’re going to need that home-field advantage.”
— Beavers coach Jonathan Smith on what his team will need when facing the Utes.