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3 Keys to the game against Northern Illinois

NCAA Football: Weber State at Utah Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Utah’s first road trip is Saturday, and it is the first time the Utes are taking on a MAC school. It’s an interesting game to say the least, and is a puzzling one to be on the scheduled, but it’s one that Utah needs to win. Here’s how they’ll do that:

1. Offensive line needs to show improvement

NIU has a solid front on defense, and a guy that is likely to play on Sunday’s with Sutton Smith. The Utes’ offensive line needs to play better than week one, and give good running lanes and clean pockets to Zack Moss and Tyler Huntley. With weather possibly playing a factor in this game, it’ll be up to these guys to make the game easier for the skill guys. If they can keep Huntley clean, and give Moss big running lanes to keep moving the chains, it’ll be a good day.

2. Put them away

Utah can’t let a team like NIU hang around and get confidence, especially at home. NIU is a scrappy program, and one that was won a lot of games over the last handful of seasons. If Utah lets them hang around, things could get dicey. If the jugular is exposed, Utah has to take it out and end this game early in the second half, if not sooner. Utah’s the much better team, and they need to play like it.

3. Play clean

This ties into No. 2, because if Utah is sloppy, they won’t pull away. That means no stupid drive killing penalties on offense, and no drive extending penalties on offense. Also, don’t be sloppy with the ball and turn it over giving NIU short fields. Make them drive the full field and earn every point they get. That’ll be big for the wide receivers and any return guys. If the ball is wet, they need to be extra secure with it. If Utah plays smart, they win easily.

Overall, it’s a simple recipe for the Utes, play smart, take care of the ball, and don’t mess around with NIU. Utah just needs to get in, get the win and get out. This could be a trap game with Washington next week, so Utah needs to make sure to go and take care of business. This will be a strange environment for the Utes, since they may only end up playing in front of 10,000 people, due to the size of the stadium and weather concerns. If Utah wants to do what they’re capable of this season, they need to go in and show themselves as the superior program, and I expect them to do just that.