UTAH UTES

Sione Vaki, Utah Responds With Lead-Taking Rushing Touchdown

Nov 11, 2023, 2:54 PM | Updated: Nov 13, 2023, 3:22 pm

SEATTLE – After the Washington Huskies took the lead back from Utah through the air, the Utes handed off to Sione Vaki who took it 53 yards to the house.

The score was Vaki’s fifth of the season.

After Vaki struggled to get going against Oregon and ASU, he brought some fireworks to the Utes offense against Washington.

His long run was reminiscent of his 72-yard touchdown run against Cal about a month ago.

RELATED: Sione Vaki Turns On Jets For Long Touchdown Run Against Cal

Utah led 21-17 with six minutes left in the first half.

Three Storylines For Utah Football Vs. Washington

  1. Ja’Quinden Jackson. The run game is always big for Utah, but I believe it will carry a little more weight for the Utes this week and it’s all going to start with whether or not JJ is good to go. Thankfully Jackson’s injury at the end of last week’s game has not been announced as season-ending, but we’ve all seen the difference between JJ when his ankle has been bothering him versus being at least tolerable. Utah needs him to be in a place where it is tolerable, and he can be effective. If he struggles because the ankle is bothering him, or he’s not even cleared to play this week at all, it could be a very long game for Utah.
  2. The Utah Defense. The Utah defense is going to have to be lights out. They are going to need to play like they did against Florida, UCLA, and ASU to keep the Utes in the game. If they look how they did against Oregon, Michael Penix Jr. and his stable of wide receivers will happily carve them up. It won’t be easy since UW has one of the best offensive lines in the country, but this Utah defense is going to need to get after it from the jump and never allow Penix Jr. the luxury of being comfortable.
  3. Utah Needs Their Best Team Effort Of The Year. Kyle Whittingham said earlier in the week that Utah will need to play their best game of the year if they want to walk out of Seattle with a win and their Pac-12 hopes alive. He’s not wrong. Washington is a very, very solid team this year and will eat the Utes alive if given the chance. Utah cannot have any mistakes. They will need to be flawless, and they will need to play together. They mostly have done that this season all things given with particularly great games against USC and Arizona State. If they can play like that, they could have a chance.

Two Questions Heading Into Utah Vs. UW

  1. Can Utah’s Defense Get Pressure On Michael Penix Jr? This is likely the biggest key of the game for Utah. The Utah defense has been pretty great this year and the defensive line has been incredibly disruptive as evidenced by Jonah Elliss’ 11.5 sacks and counting. They will need to put together their best effort yet in order to keep Michael Penix Jr from picking a part the secondary and scoring at will.
  2. Where Will The Surprise Explosiveness Come From On Offense? We all know Utah has been going without some of their key pieces in 2023- particularly on offense, which means Andy Ludwig has had to devise other ways to make the Utes explosive on that side of the ball. Against Florida, it was Money Parks. Against Baylor, it was Nate Johnson. Against Cal and USC, it was Sione Vaki. Against ASU it Ja’Quinden Jackson and Devaughn Vele. While most of these guys are not the “usual suspects” for the Utes, they have shown a propensity to throw the other team off their game to get the win. Will it be one of those guys against Washington? Will it be a combo of them? Could it be someone not mentioned but on the cusp such as Landen King? Munir McClain? Mikey Matthews? Jaylon Glover? Whatever the case, Utah will need one of those surprise elements that they keep going to until UW forces them to do something different. Who will it be?

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Chandler Holt is a co-host for the Jazz Notes podcast and a Digital Sports Producer for KSLSports.com, specializing in all things basketball and football. Follow Chandler on Twitter @ChandlerHoltKSL or on Threads @chandlerho1t.

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Sione Vaki, Utah Responds With Lead-Taking Rushing Touchdown