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Opponent Preview: Oregon State Defense

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NCAA Football: Oregon State at UCLA Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off the bye week, the Utes head to Reeser Stadium on Saturday afternoon to take on the Beavers of Oregon State, who clinched their first conference win of the season last week against UCLA, a feat the Beavers haven’t accomplished since October 27, 2018 when they upset Colorado in overtime. A second straight win would be the first back-to-back win for Oregon State since the final two weeks of the 2016 season. Needless to say, things haven’t been going well in Corvallis in quite a long time, and the Beaver’s defense is a big reason as to why.

​One of the bright notes for OSU comes in the form of junior linebacker Hamilcar Rashed, Jr. The 6’4”, 236 lbwrecking ball currently leads the conference in sacks (6 total), as well as leading his team in in total tackles (31), however he’s statistically the 21st best defender in the conference when all other defensive stats are taken into consideration. With Utah running back Zack Moss likely making his return after suffering a minor shoulder injury against USC, Rashed promises to be a disruptive force that could stifle Moss’s comeback.

​While Rashed is the current defensive leader for the Beavers, linebackers Avery Roberts (sophomore) and Shemar Smith (senior) don’t trail far behind, both matching Rashed’s 20 solo tackles, with Roberts claiming 30 total tackles compared to Smith’s 29, while the duo has combined for a mere three sacks.

​As a unit, the Beavers’ secondary has failed to generate much of anything in 2019, compiling 11 deflected passes and two interceptions, with junior defensive back Isaiah Dunn (6’0”, 191 lbs) proving to be the most effective downfield weapon, claiming four deflected passes on his own.

​The Beavers are slowly but surely improving under second year coach, Jonathan Smith. Despite a 2-3 record, the Beavers are just a few plays and six points away from being 4-1, but giving up an average of 31.8 points per game certainly doesn’t bode well for a team looking to climb out of the PAC-12 basement, and with Utah’s offense seemingly firing on all cylinders at the moment, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the bleeding stops this weekend.