Utes Determined To Keep Defensive Momentum Rolling Against Cougars
SALT LAKE CITY- The Utes’ defense hasn’t been the best it’s ever been but remains determined to keep some of the momentum they found in the second half of the USC game alive against the Washington State Cougars on Thursday.
Defensive tackle Junior Tafuna and defensive end Jonah Elliss both talked about the need for the defense to keep working hard and get pressure on the quarterback like they did against Caleb Williams two weeks ago. WSU quarterback Cam Ward presents a similar challenge in their estimation and will be a good test to see if they have retained some of the swagger they gained against the Trojans.
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Utes Defense Want To Keep Momentum Against WSU
Both Elliss and Tafuna see a lot of similarities in the explosiveness of USC’s offense compared to what they are seeing on film from Washington State. Elliss believes the Cougars will most likely be looking to get Utah’s defense tired so they can strike big with little effort. However, Elliss says the Utes have been working hard to get better at dealing with tempo offenses.
“They are an explosive offense,” Elliss said of Washington State. “They are going to try and get us tired and then try to get big plays off of that. We just need to be physically and mentally prepared for that. That’s really what it is- their fast-paced offense and just like USC we’re going to have to keep tempo which is something we have been struggling with but working on a lot in practice.”
Tafuna thinks going against the Trojans two weeks prior should really help Utah handle WSU’s offense better. The Utes know a little bit of what to expect and can point to some success in that game to hopefully inspire some extra confidence.
“I think it does because they are both tempo teams,” Tafuna said. “I think it definitely helps playing WSU defensively just because of how fast they move on the ball and how fast they get their plays out. I think USC really prepped us for this game.”
Elliss noted in particular how Washington State quarterback Cam Ward is very similar to USC’s Caleb Williams. Both are elusive and can be problematic to bring down which means Utah’s front seven is going to have to get after him early and often.
“I think he’s really similar to USC just in that he’s elusive,” Elliss said. “It’s hard to get him down. I don’t think he’s as strong in the lower body, so when we get him, I think we’ll be able to get him down whereas USC’s quarterback- you’d get him, and he’d throw guys off. I think he’s very similar to these athletic quarterbacks.”
Tafuna noted that what turned the tables a bit in the USC game two weeks ago was the defense’s ability to get after Williams in the second half. In order to beat Washington State, Tafuna predicts the defense will have to operate much the same way, but hopefully for the entire 60 minutes.
“I think the biggest thing was getting after the quarterback in the second half of USC,” Tafuna said. “I think that is what we need to take into this game as a defensive front. We just need to get after the quarterback- he’s the heart of that offense. If we get after him, that should be a good day for us and a good day for Utah football.”
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