Red All Over: Utes will spend the weekend ranked No. 1 in three defensive categories

The country’s top-performing secondary will face a big test at Washington State.

Utah Utes linebacker Cody Barton (30) and defensive back Marquise Blair (13) hit NIU running back Tre Harbison (22) in the backfield for a loss during a college football game at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, IL on Saturday, Sept. 08, 2018 (Sean King | for The Salt Lake Tribune)

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Weber State is turning out to be a very good FCS team, so Utah’s defensive performance in the season opener should not be completely devalued by the level of competition.

It’s also true that until the Utes play a few more games, that meeting with the Wildcats will skew their stats. After holding Weber State to 5-of-22 passing for 13 yards, along with 46 rushing yards, Utah ranks No. 1 in the FBS in three categories: total defense (204.7 yards per game), pass defense (93.0 yards) and pass efficiency defense (75.62 rating).

Those numbers will increase dramatically after next week’s game at Washington State, with coach Mike Leach’s Cougars known for their prolific passing offense. Yet there’s no doubt the Utes' defense will keep them in most Pac-12 games this season — as happened in last Saturday’s 21-7 loss to No. 10 Washington.

Stories of the past week

The Utes were highly competitive vs. Washington for the third year in a row, coming close again — although not as close as in the previous two seasons. (TRIB)

Tribune columnist Gordon Monson’s observations played into the annual “Blackout” theme. (TRIB)

My next-day analysis was built around the theory that nobody else in the Pac-12 South is playing great football at the moment, either. (TRIB)

Here’s my deeper dive along those lines, with ESPN’s Football Index endorsing the idea that multiple teams in the South could finish with 5-4 conference records. (TRIB)

And to occupy your thoughts during Utah’s weekend off, I connected the dots about possible changes to the coaching staff’s offensive approach. (TRIB)

Other voices

As you know, I live for Britain Covey’s quotes, and he had another great one after facing Washington’s tough secondary: “Got the wind knocked out of me about 12 times, but I’ll be OK.” Brad Rock wonders how Covey can withstand such treatment from defenses all season. (DNEWS)

Josh Furlong does good work with his weekly charting of Utah’s passing game. You’ll notice the vacant area of the field. (KSL)

Here’s an evaluation of how Washington performed, in a Ute context. (DAWG)

Utes in the NFL

Denver Broncos receiver Tim Patrick needed only one play to make himself the biggest star among Ute alumni in the NFL's Week 2. Patrick caught a pass over the middle and worked his way both downfield and toward the sideline, gaining 26 yards and setting up the Broncos' winning field goal with 6 seconds left in a 20-19 defeat of Oakland. Patrick's first career catch will be tough to top, for timeliness and importance.

Runner-up: New Orleans safety Marcus Williams, with an interception that preserved the Saints' 21-18 win over Cleveland.

Other sports

Utah’s No. 23 women’s volleyball team opened Pac-12 play Wednesday with a five-set loss at Colorado. The Utes (8-4) were leading 2-1 after three sets, dropped the fourth set 25-18 and fell 15-13 in the fifth set. Dani Drews led Utah with 20 kills. The Utes will host No. 17 UCLA on Friday (7 p.m.) at the Huntsman Center. Fans wearing red will get free admission.

The Utah women’s soccer team went 3-4-1 in nonconference play and opens the Pac-12 schedule Friday at Oregon. In last Sunday’s 1-0 win over Nevada, Hailey Skolmoski moved into a tie for fifth place on Utah’s career list with her 26th goal.

The Ute men’s golf team delivered a great season-opening performance, winning the Showdown in the Rockies at Huntsman Springs in Driggs, Idaho. The 10-team field included Pac-12 schools Arizona, Colorado and Oregon State, so the host team’s 14-stroke victory over Texas Tech and OSU is significant.

Utah shot 22 under par for 54 holes, producing the program’s lowest score in 15 years. Ute senior Kyler Dunkle shot 66-70-67 for a 13-under-par total, earning medalist honors by two strokes.

Looking ahead

With the practice schedule altered during the bye week, Utah made football players available only on Monday. I’ve saved interviews with Conner Haller and Pita Tonga. They were involved in highly memorable plays that went wrong against Washington, and they spoke willingly and insightfully about wishing they could have held onto the football. Credit to Utah Athletics for arranging those interviews and especially to the players for fielding the questions graciously. Watch for that story this weekend at sltrib.com.