The Utes travel to rainy Corvallis, Oregon this week to take on former Utah defensive coordinator, Gary Anderson, and his Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium. With both teams coming off of significant PAC 12 wins last week, Utah and Oregon State want nothing more than to keep that momentum going. Here are three keys to ensuring the Utes victory.
1. Defensive focus on the run
Over the past two weeks Utah had a challenge to face on the defensive side of the ball in the secondary. With teams, Arizona and California that concentrated more on the passing game, this focus should change to the run game this week with Oregon State. With a slight quarterback controversy for the Beavers, they have struggled with their passing game with this week’s starting quarterback, Darell Garretson. The Utah State transfer has struggled to throw for over 100 yards in a single game and has three touchdowns and interceptions. Garretson has rushed 34 times, half of his pass completions number, and is far more effective on his feet. Another key running back is the sophomore Ryan Nall who has 432 yards and six touchdowns under his belt. As a team, the Beavers have accumulated 1,031 yards and 11 touchdowns versus just three total touchdowns from pass completions. Fortunately, the Utah defense’s strong suit thus far has been stopping the run, which should come in hand this week.
2. Running back position
At the beginning of the season we could have never dreamed up the unfortunate injury plagued saga that has unfolded at Utah’s running back position. Joe Williams, Troy McCormick, Zach Moss, Armand Shyne, Jordan Howard and back again. The group combined for over a thousand yards and 12 touchdowns but the Utes are now left with several unknowns. Are Troy McCormick and Zach Moss back this week and healthy? Is Joe Williams a go? Is fifth string Jordan Howard prepared to take the charge? After coming out of retirement it looks most likely that senior Joe Williams will be back at the starting running back spot this week. Due to the aggressive rollercoaster the position has brutally ridden since the beginning of the season it is easy to forget that during week one Williams was the starter. What remains is the lingering question of how big of a challenge it will be for Williams to return on such short notice and will he still be in football condition? The Utes are in desperate need of a BYE week that will not be coming anytime soon.
3. Lose the offensive penalty bug
Last week the Utes caught the penalty bug and racked up 98 yards worth of negative yardage with a total of fourteen penalties. While not solely the cause, the overall motive for the penalties was false starts on the offense and a probable contributing factor was likely first time jitters at the Utah center position for senior Nick Nowakowski. Though they were able to clean it up during the second half of the game against Arizona, this week the Utes have to take control of the penalties. To handle this issue Utah has made even more changes on the offensive line in hopes to figure out what works despite the injuries. Coach Whittingham said, “We want to get the five best guys out there. If there’s a better combination, I’m interested in that.” On a positive note, if there was ever an occasion to figure out the injury issues and the depth of the offensive this battle against the Beavers could be that time. After this week, Utah moves onto UCLA and Washington.
Even with Oregon State coming off of their first win in the PAC 12 and having home field advantage the Utes should be able to win on all sides of the ball in this battle with the Beavers.