The Utes will close out their out-of-conference portion of the schedule Saturday afternoon when FCS foe, Idaho State enters Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Bengals (1-0) should give Utah a chance to fine-tune each unit with an upcoming date with the USC Trojans on the horizon.
In their opening game, Idaho State forced seven consecutive punts from Western Colorado, allowing a field goal in the closing seconds of the second quarter thanks to a short field off an intercepted pass by quarterback, Matt Struck. In total, Idaho State allowed just 84 yards in the first half, and 151 yards through four quarters, showing particular strengthstopping the run game, allowing just 1.9 yards per rush on 35 attempts. Western Colorado’s offense was able to find better rhythm through the air, gaining 3.4 yards per pass, with thirteen completed passes moving downfield.
The Bengals were dealt a blow to their defensive staff when defensive line coach (and former Ute) Steve Fifita resigned, leaving the team to hire Lei Talamaivao just two weeks before the start of the 2019. Prior to joining the Bengals, Talamavaiowas a member of Utah’s coaching staff as a graduate assistant and quality control coach and was slated to take over as the defensive line coach at Snow College prior to accepting the same position at Idaho State.
That same defensive line lacks much experience with just two returning starters (juniors Kainoa Fuiava and TJ Togia), which may be beneficial, considering the Bengals pass rush was only able to record 17 sacks during the 2018 season.
Utah’s offense shouldn’t struggle much against a young and inexperienced FCS defense, which should result in extended playing time for the Utes bench this weekend.