Utah Football Facing Rare Dilemma As Pac-12 South Showdown Against Bruins Awaits

Oct 25, 2021, 12:21 PM
Head coach Kyle Whittingham of the Utah Utes shows a look of concern against the Oregon Ducks durin...
Head coach Kyle Whittingham of the Utah Utes shows a look of concern against the Oregon Ducks during the first half of the Pac-12 Championship Game at Levi's Stadium on December 06, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah Football head coach Kyle Whittingham is known for his defense, he has always had a knack for turning under-scouted defensive players into National Football League draftees.

But this year the generally very reliable Utah defense under Kyle Whittingham does not appear to have its regular mojo. Through 7 games played, the Utes are giving up an average of 258 rush yards per game, good enough for 66th in the country, and last week the Oregon State Beavers went for 260 yards with 152 of them coming thanks to star tailback B.J Taylor.

Whittingham has not been in this position often. Generally, Utah boasts one of the best defenses in the country and stopping the run pioneers the entire operation.

This is not the first time this season that Utah has looked poor against the run, however. Earlier in the year, Utah battled mightily to limit the production on the ground from their opposition. But it went away, much to the joy of Whittingham and the Utah supporters and against Arizona State last week, Utah limited the Sundevils to just 148 total rush yards.

When it comes to stopping the run, you first look at the players you have upfront. Utah, to no surprise, is starting three freshman defensive linemen, which likely has a significant role to play when you look at the issues Utah is currently facing.

“Starting three freshman d-lineman, you never make excuses because when you’re out there you need to perform, but we are just not quite where we need to be upfront yet,” Whittingham confessed in his Monday press conference. “We have had flashes throughout the course of the year but not enough consistency. Then, when we lost Devin [Lloyd] that was obviously a blow, but we were soft well before he was gone so that wasn’t the key to the whole thing but we certainly missed him when he got ejected,” Whittingham added.

The task does not get any easier for Utah as this week they host the UCLA Bruins who currently sit second in the conference for most yards on the ground per game.

Number 24 Zach Charbonnet and number 28 Brittain Brown alongside quarterback Donovan Thompson-Robinson provides a three-pronged ground attack for Utah to defend this week.

Fortunately, the game will be at Rice-Eccles Stadium with an expected full capacity crowd on hand to help will the Utes home. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. and will be available to watch on ESPN.

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Utah Football Facing Rare Dilemma As Pac-12 South Showdown Against Bruins Awaits