Utah coach Kyle Whittingham believes his offense needs to establish an identity, and he’s clearly frustrated that’s still the case seven games into the season. It’s also clear that the running attack is something that Whittingham feels needs to play a bigger part in that identity.
Asked if Utes sophomore running back Zack Moss’ 12 carries were enough in Saturday’s loss to Arizona State, Whittingham replied, “No. Probably not. Simple answer is probably not. He’s on his way to being an 1,000-yard back if we feed him the ball a little bit more. By the same token, earlier in the season his play didn’t warrant more carries. Now as he’s become a much different player, absolutely he needs to get more carries than what he got in the game on Saturday.”
Moss posted a career-high 141-yard rushing performance against USC, and he gave the offense an aggressive, hard-nosed attitude. All indications were that he and the offensive line were making strides and getting more in sync.
Saturday, Moss gained 49 yards on 12 carries (4.1 yards per carry). The Utes rushed a total of 25 times for 110 yards, and they scored their fewest points since losing to UCLA in 2015.
“I feel like we’ve been running away from the run game a little bit,” senior center Lo Falemaka said. “I would like to stick to the run game, just because I’m an offensive lineman. No matter what it is, I think we’ll handle it well.”
Huntley feels fine
Whittingham said of sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley, who played for the first time this past weekend since suffering a shoulder injury on Sept. 22, “Tyler is our guy, and he’ll continue to be our guy. He was obviously a little rusty.”
Huntley completed 19 of 35 passes for 155 yards and four interceptions against ASU. However, he did not complete a pass of more than 17 yards. His first four completions netted a total of just 14 yards. Whittingham deferred to the training staff and his quarterback when asked if Huntley’s shoulder will limit the offense’s ability to throw the ball downfield.
On Monday, Huntley continued to deny that his shoulder has hampered his ability to throw. He again insisted that the missed throws and interceptions were a result of miscommunication and blown assignments.
Cavalry may not be coming
The Utes defense played without starting strong safety Chase Hansen and without leading tackler and senior linebacker Sunia Tauteoli against ASU. Hansen twice came out of the USC game due to injury, the second an apparent shoulder injury, while Tauteoli had been sick last week.
The Utes will be without backup linebacker Donovan Thompson and safety Corrion Ballard for the first half of this week’s game at Oregon as a result of targeting calls. Whittingham said he couldn’t say for sure who’d be asked to step into bigger roles this week because “there’s five or six guys that we’re not sure what their status is going to be.”