Burned By Oregon State Last Year, Utah’s Run Defense Improves

Sep 28, 2022, 11:31 AM

(Photo courtesy of Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)...

(Photo courtesy of Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

(Photo courtesy of Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY- Utah is about to host Oregon State this weekend and the run defense will be a huge priority in stopping the Beavers. Last year Utah came up short against Oregon State largely due to being unable to stop the run. It also burned the Utes earlier this season against Florida.

However, Utah has steadily improved at stopping the run the last few games with their best work of the young season coming against ASU last weekend. The Utes held the Sun Devils to just six yards rushing for the entire game. This week they will be looking to do it again against a much better rushing team in the Beavers.

Defensive end coach Lewis Powell acknowledged the short coming last year noting guys were young and learned a lot in that game. He also says they haven’t forgotten, making is sound like there is another stop on the “Utah Revenge Tour” in 2022.

The Utah Run Defense

Utah was slow to start stopping the run this season allowing Florida to run 283 total yards on them. It was a very unusual occurrence for a team that has prided itself for years on out-physical-ing teams on a regular basis.

Since then, there seems to have been a steady improvement up front for the Utes defensively with Utah holding the rest of their opponents to 43, 174 and six yard rushing respectively. While there is some question as to how much this has to do with the opponents themselves, coach Powell says he’s been seeing the improvement he has wanted from the young guys on the defensive line.

“I think we are adjusting well,” Powell said. “Our young guys have learned a lot throughout the first four games and they understand that the test is pretty physical and good this week. Probably one of the best teams in our conference and we’re excited for the challenge.”

Another area the Utes have drastically improved on that helps stop the running attack is getting pressure on the quarterback. Last week against Arizona State, Utah recorded five sacks on Emory Jones who is known as an elusive quarterback. Coach Powell says both components of Utah’s defense are important, however, getting after the run game is still the top priority.

“We’re trying to always stop the run first and then get after the quarterbacks,” Powell said. “We were probably doing a good job stopping the run to have five sacks, but we want as many sacks as we can get after we stop the run.”

Part of the evolution for Utah’s defense in 2022 has been young guys just understanding what is expected of them and what their role looks like on the line. Since the first game, Powell says guys are getting comfortable with the expectations and it’s helped to eliminate costly mistakes. It’s an improvement Powell says he hopes continues as the season goes on.

“There is a lot that has changed from the three games,” Powell said. “Guys in our defense just understanding their role and how they fit in our scheme and what they need to do. It’s exciting for them to get better every single week. We went from Florida, to Southern Utah, to San Diego State, and now Arizona State. Hopefully we continue to make progress, see improvement in our fundamentals and technique and understanding of our scheme.”

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Burned By Oregon State Last Year, Utah’s Run Defense Improves