UTAH UTES

Defense Could Be The Difference Maker As No. 14 Utah Takes On Washington State

Oct 27, 2022, 8:57 AM

PULLMAN- It’s game day, but we still have hours to go before kickoff at 8 p.m. MT (7 p.m. local time) which means it’s time to take a closer look at No. 14 Utah’s opponent, Washington State. The Cougars are always known for lighting their foe up through the air raid, but this year they are pretty dang good on the defensive front as well leading the Pac-12 in several categories. While both sides have proven they can put up points and yards on offense, it seems very likely Utah versus Washington State could come down to who makes the most key defensive stops.

The Utes and Cougars have a pretty long history together with their first game being played in 1966- a 26-15 win for Utah at home. Since then, the two teams have met 19 total times and the Utes currently lead the series 10-9. Since becoming conference mates in 2011, Utah and WSU have met nine times with the Utes leading 5-4.

With a win today, head coach Kyle Whittingham will have earned his 150th win in his career. A win for the Utes would also give them their 100th victory as a member of the Pac-12.

Taking A Closer Look At Washington State

Washington State is being led by first-time head coach Jake Dickert who took over for embattled head coach Nick Rolovich last season on an interim basis but earned the job outright going forward. So far, Dickert has a 7-6 record with the Cougars as a whole, while this season they are sitting at 4-3 (1-3 in conference).

The Cougars got off to a hot start beating Wisconsin in Madison to start the season but have had some heartbreakers down the recent stretch including losses to USC and Oregon State.

At the quarterback position, WSU had to start over after starter Jayden deLaura transferred to Arizona in the offseason. The Cougars picked up Cam Ward through the transfer portal from Incarnate Word (a small college off of the highway in San Antonio) and he’s been impressive early on. Ward is flirting with 2000 yards passing already at 1,962 and 16 touchdown passes. However, and partially due to the amount WSU chooses to throw, Ward has also been susceptible to interceptions with eight on the season.

Ward’s favorite targets are receivers De’Zhaun Stribling, Donnovan Ollie, and Robert Ferrel. Stribling leads the pack with 28 receptions for 359 yards this season and four touchdowns. On his heels are Ollie with 33 receptions for 354 yards and two touchdowns, and Ferrel with 25 receptions for 339 yards and three touchdowns. Renard Bell is Wazzu’s fourth leading receiver with 20 receptions for 282 yards and two touchdowns, however, there are reports he’s likely not to play tonight due to an injury.

Washington State does not opt to run the ball much in their air raid system but when they do, their guy is Nakia Watson who has 64 attempts for 325 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Unfortunately, for WSU, it sounds like Watson is also likely out against Utah, which means the Utes will likely see more of Jaylen Jenkins who has 43 attempts on the season for 299 yards and one touchdown.

The defensive side of the ball has been a bit of a revelation for the Cougars due to Dickert’s background as a defensive coach. Washington State is currently 2nd in the Pac-12 in 1st and 3rd down defense, and first in scoring defense. They are also 3rd in the Pac-12 in sacks, 1st in tackles-for-loss and fourth in total defense.

Leading the charge defensively for the Cougars is linebacker Daiyan Henley with 68 total tackles on the season, four sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception. Next up is defensive back Jaden Hicks with 43 total tackles, one sack, and two passes defended. Defensive back Armani Marsh and linebacker Francisco Mauigoa round up the defensive leaders with 36 and 33 total tackles two and 2.5 sacks, three passes defended for Marsh and one pick six and one fumble recovery for Mauigoa.

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Defense Could Be The Difference Maker As No. 14 Utah Takes On Washington State