Morgan Scalley’s blitzing tactics work well as Utah pounds Oregon State, 52-7

Oregon State wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins (17) is brought down by Utah defensive back Josh Nurse (14) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Corvallis, Ore., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Utah won 52-7. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

Corvallis, Ore. • Going into Saturday night’s meeting with Oregon State, Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley said generating a pass rush would be critical in stopping the Beavers.

Scalley just didn’t say how he intended to do it. His strategy was very aggressive, with a high percentage of blitzes that kept OSU from getting any traction in Utah’s 52-7 victory at Reser Stadium.

The Beavers like to use maximum protection, figuring that even with fewer receivers running routes, Isaiah Hodgins and other targets eventually can get open if quarterback Jake Luton is given enough time. Scalley’s answer was choosing to rush, like crazy.

And his approach worked wonderfully. The Beavers were 1 of 11 in third-down conversions in the first three quarters as Luton continually was hounded. He was sacked only once (by Devin Lloyd), but often was hurried by blitzes from linebackers Francis Bernard and Lloyd and some of Utah’s defensive backs.

And when defensive end Bradlee Anae deflected one ball, Lloyd intercepted the pass and went 64 yards for a touchdown.

“Coach Scalley and his staff thought it was a good week to heat this guy up,” Ute coach Kyle Whittingham said of Luton. “He hadn’t faced a lot of pressure, and we did up our dose of pressure.”

Luton completed 17 of 34 passes for only 131 yards after throwing for five touchdown against UCLA.

OSU called some screen passes and inside routes designed to exploit blitzes, but Utah’s scheme was sound. The Utes covered the vacated areas and made tackles after short completions. Ute cornerback Jaylon Johnson made seven tackles.

Scalley’s defense almost managed to stay unscored upon, in his 40s. The fourth-year coordinator turned 40 on Tuesday, and his group rewarded him with a remarkable effort against an OSU offense that had gained confidence by scoring touchdowns on its last four possessions in a 31-28 loss to Stanford and then scoring 48 points in a win at UCLA.

The Utes lost their shutout bid only in the last 57 seconds of the game. That was partly due to the Utah offense’s losing its third turnover the year, Devin Brumfield’s fumble at the Ute 45-yard line with 3:40 remaining.

Oregon State figured to provide the biggest test of Utah’s rushing defense this season, but the Beavers netted only 48 yards on the ground — slightly lower than the Ute opponents’ average. Defensive tackle Leki Fotu had two tackles for loss.

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