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Utah football readying for trip to Oregon State, ‘one of the tougher places to play in the Pac-12′

The Utes will be missing long snapper Keegan Markgraf, who is out for the year

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) celebrates his first half touchdown as the University of Utah hosts the Arizona Sun Devils in Pac-12 action at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Oct. 10, 2021.

The University of Utah’s trip to Corvallis this weekend to take on Oregon State doesn’t look like it did two months ago.

Pac-12 also-rans for most of the last decade, the Beavers are contending this fall. They co-lead the Pac-12 North at 2-1, while leading the conference in scoring, rushing and third-down conversions.

Kyle Whittingham has won his last three trips to Reser Stadium, including a 52-7 midseason demolition by his vaunted 2019 team. That said, the Utah head coach on Monday morning spoke of the difficulty of playing a game there, although he couldn’t pinpoint exactly why.

“You typically have a pretty boisterous crowd, it’s just an environment that is typically one of the tougher places to play in the Pac-12,” Whittingham said, less than two days removed from Utah taking sole possession of the Pac-12 South lead via a 35-21 win over Arizona State. “Other than the fans and the overall environment, I don’t have a great answer for you, but it has proven to be a tough place. The last time we were there, we started out incredible. That game was not typical of a game you have in Corvallis. We’re expecting a hard-fought battle.”

Built in 1952, Reser Stadium has undergone a handful of upgrades and expansions, which have brought the current capacity to 43,154, the second-smallest in the Pac-12 behind Washington State’s 33,000-seat Martin Stadium.

A $153 million project to renovate the stadium’s west side is on track to begin at the conclusion of this season, with finishing touches coming in time for the 2023 season. Oregon State will continue to play home games at Reser in 2022.

Through three home games this season, the Beavers are averaging 29,410 fans per contest, but only one of those, Washington on Oct. 2, was against a Pac-12 opponent. For that one, Reser drew 33,733.

Keegan Markgraf done for the season; Vonte Davis has a “hand injury”

Whittingham announced Monday morning that All-Pac-12 long snapper Keegan Markgraf, one of five captains, is done for the season with an undisclosed injury, suffered during a second-quarter punt vs. Arizona State.

True freshman long snapper JT Greep saw his first action of the season vs. the Sun Devils in Markgraf’s absence, and the position belongs to the Glendora, Calif. native moving forward.

“As soon as you notice him, that’s a bad thing,” Whittingham said. “As long as you’re not noticing the snappers, that means everything is going as it should. We haven’t noticed Keegan hardly at all because he’s been so consistent. That’s a big factor, but we have all the confidence in the world in JT. We expect that he’ll get the job done.”

Also on the injury front, senior safety Vonte Davis played against Arizona State with a cast on his left hand. Whittingham termed it a “hand injury,” adding that the injury occurred on Oct. 9 at USC, a game in which Davis had six tackles and a third-quarter interception of Kedon Slovis.

Davis said postgame Saturday night that the cast, which stops a few inches above his wrist, was put on the day after the win over the Trojans. Against the Sun Devils, his 11th consecutive start dating back to last season, Davis had six tackles and forced a fumble.

UCLA-Utah kickoff, broadcast designation to be released Sunday

With this week’s results pending, UCLA-Utah on Oct. 30 at Rice-Eccles Stadium is lining up as a critical Pac-12 South game for both sides.

We won’t know what time that game will kickoff, nor do we know who will broadcast it until Sunday.

As Oct. 30 kickoff times for games across the country were released Monday, 12 days before those games are played, Utah-UCLA was placed in the six-day window. That means broadcast partners wanted some more time to decide what to do with the matchup.

There are two options for the game. It will either be played at 1:30 p.m. on FOX or at 8 p.m. on ESPN. A second Oct. 30 Pac-12 game, Colorado-Oregon, was also placed in the six-day window. That matchup will be played in Eugene at either 1:30 p.m. on FOX or 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

The 10th-ranked Ducks, co-leaders of the Pac-12 North alongside the Beavers, play Saturday at UCLA in a game that will air on ABC.

While nothing will be official until Sunday, one plausible scenario is that whoever wins between the Bruins and Ducks on Saturday will wind up playing Oct. 30 on FOX at 1:30 p.m. FOX’s coveted noon ET window on Oct. 30 will have No. 6 Michigan playing at No. 9 Michigan State in a game with major Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff implications.

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