Smash-Mouth Football Will Favor Utah Against Oregon State

Oct 11, 2019, 5:03 PM
Utah Utes running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole (7) is tackled by Washington State Cougars cornerback...
Utah Utes running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole (7) is tackled by Washington State Cougars cornerback Marcus Strong (4) at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Utes’ rushing defense has been elite this season, like most seasons, they are currently ranked No. 4 in all of college football, allowing just 53.8 yards per game.

The Oregon State Beavers have been very successful this season running the football, racking up 203 yards per game on the ground, which is 39th in the country and 4th in the Pac-12.

But, Utah’s Pac-12 leading rush defense has been tremendous through the first five games of the season. The Utes have allowed a total of 269 yards rushing with the most yards they have allowed one team this year is BYU in the season opener with 92. They held Northern Illinois to 67, Idaho State to 36, USC to 13 and Washington State to 61.

Oregon State is led by a duo of running backs in senior Artavis Pierce and sophomore Jermar Jefferson. Pierce has 482 yards and 5 touchdowns, while posting 7.5 yards per carry. Jefferson has racked up 296 yards and one touchdown this season while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

“We’ve got some pretty good run stoppers up front between Leki Fotu, John Penisini, Bradlee Anae, Mika Tafua and Maxs Tupai and those guys do a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage,” Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham said at his weekly press conference. “If you control the line of scrimmage it frees your backers to flow and fit where they need to. We expected when the season started we’d be pretty good at run defense and I think that’s proven to be the case.”

Check out the latest episode of the Crimson Corner podcast talking about the Utah game against Oregon State.

Utah’s Rushing Offense vs. Oregon State’s Rushing Defense

On this side of the ball, Utah is expected to control the game on the ground. They lead the Pac-12 with 223.4 rushing yards per game. The Beavers allow 195.6 yards per game on the ground, which is last in the conference.

Utah is hoping to have star running back Zack Moss back after missing the second half against USC and the entire game against Washington State. But, if Moss doesn’t go against Oregon State, they have good depth at the running back position.

Devonta’e Henry-Cole has 132 yards on the ground as well as help from Devin Brumfield with 111 yards and Jordan Wilmore’s 98 yards this season.

With the numbers favoring heavily on Utah’s side, Whittingham is not focused on the woes of Oregon State’s defense.

“I don’t say their licking their chops, but you’re always looking for matchups,” Whittingham stated. “Football is a game of matchups and what it boils down to is one-on-one matchups. That’s the biggest part of the game. It’s not overall schemes as much as it is this player against that player. You’re always looking for ways to maximize that. Same with your defense. I would just say we’re going about our business in our normal fashion to find the best way to move the football and take care of it.”

Passing Game

Both Jake Luton and Tyler Huntley are having similar seasons through the air. Luton has 1,297 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Huntley has thrown for 1,146 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Luton and Huntley are the two remaining starting quarterbacks to have not thrown an interception this season. Utah’s passing offense is averaging 236.8 yards per game, which is good for 10th in the Pac-12. Oregon State is posting the sixth highest passing yards per game average of 272.6 yards.

Defensively favors the Utes, allowing 228.6 yards per game through the air, which is fifth in the conference. Oregon State is allowing a Pac-12 seventh-best 245 yards per game.

If Utah can control the running game, while limiting Oregon State’s running backs, they should be able to leave Corvallis, Oregon with a win.

Utah and Oregon State will kickoff at 6 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.

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