Utah’s football team is in much the same place as last September, having lost its Pac-12 opener and preparing for the high-powered offense of Washington State.
The state of the Utes also may resemble November, when quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss were sidelined by injuries.
No. 19 Utah’s 30-23 loss at USC last Friday took a toll, in multiple ways. Moss left the field in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. Huntley, who played the entire game, was noticeably limping late in the contest with an apparent foot injury.
Ute coach Kyle Whittingham wouldn’t discuss any player’s health status in his weekly news conference Monday, in advance of Saturday night’s game vs. Washington State at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“We just hope everyone's there,” Whittingham said. “Why would you ever tip your hand to the opponent? That would make no sense at all. And until college football has an injury-report rule or whatever, we just won't do it.”
Whittingham acknowledged, “It was a physical game on Friday night. We took our bumps and bruises, got some guys banged up, but that's for us to know and deal with and try to get the best guys out there on Saturday night.”
Whittingham credited Huntley for “competing like a warrior” vs. USC. If Huntley is unavailable this week, Utah’s coaches would choose between junior Drew Lisk and sophomore Jason Shelley. Lisk has played ahead of Shelley in two games this season as Huntley’s backup, but Shelley’s experience of starting five games last year and helping the Utes win the Pac-12 South championship in Huntley’s absence would make him a logical pick.
Lisk remained the No. 2 QB for the USC game, Whittingham said, but the depth chart is subject to weekly competition.
Moss’ primary replacements, Devin Brumfield and Devonta’e Henry-Cole, produced 130 yards of rushing and receiving between them against USC. They were behind freshman Jordan Wilmore on the depth chart, but Wilmore had only one carry Friday. Brumfield got the most work after Moss was injured and finished with 10 carries for 63 yards and four receptions for 28 yards.
After playing Washington State, Utah has a week off. The Utes then will play four games before having another bye during this 14-week season.
Last season, the Utes lost Huntley to a broken collarbone in the ninth game, at Arizona State. Three days later, Moss' knee locked up as he was climbing into bed. His pre-existing condition required surgery and each player missed Utah's final five games, including the Pac-12 title contest and the Holiday Bowl.
Shelley and running back Armand Shyne, who's now playing for Texas Tech as a graduate transfer, became starters in November. Utah responded by beating Oregon, Colorado and BYU, before losing to Washington and Northwestern.
In those five games, Shelley completed 92 of 154 passes (.597) for 1,063 yards and five touchdowns, with five interceptions.
Huntley has played efficiently this season, completing 76.2 percent of his passes for 812 yards and five touchdowns, with no interceptions. He's No. 23 nationally in ESPN's Total Quarterback Rating system.
Huntley missed three games in 2017 with two different injuries before being hurt last season. He absorbed several tough hits against USC, especially on inside running plays.