Utah carries the momentum from one of the biggest victories in
the school’s history when the Utes venture out of their home state
for the first time this season to face Arizona on Saturday.
When coach Kyle Whittingham’s team knocked off then-No. 5
Stanford 27-21 in Salt Lake City last weekend, it was the
highest-ranked team the Utes ever beat at home.
Now Utah (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) must avoid a letdown against the
Wildcats (3-2, 0-2).
The victory over Stanford, Whittingham said, ”can be magnified
if we’re able to build on it and do some good things going
Arizona, seeking its first conference victory, is playing its
first home game in over a month and it’s only Tucson contest over a
span of seven weeks.
Here are five things to watch when the Utes and Wildcats
ARIZONA’S GROUND GAME: The Wildcats found a passing game last
week in a 38-31 loss at USC, but the team’s bread and butter is on
the ground behind Ka’Deem Carey, who rushed for 206 yards, 7.9
yards per carry, last year in Arizona’s 34-24 win at Utah.
”He did a number on us,” Whittingham said. ”He’s a powerful
kid – not the tallest kid in the world, but he’s about 210 pounds,
extremely explosive, great vision. He’s a guy that can really
change direction and is tough to tackle.”
The nation’s leading rusher a year ago, Carey is second in the
Pac-12 and fourth in the nation this season, averaging 142 yards
Arizona is second in the Pac-12 and 12th nationally in rushing
at 262 yards per game. Utah is giving up 134 yards per game on the
ground, third in the conference behind USC and Stanford.
Wildcats quarterback B.J. Denker said that when it’s’
third-and-5, he asks himself whether the team should try to pass
for it. It’s usually an obvious choice.
”Let’s give it to 25 (Carey) and he will get us a first down,”
Denker said. ”I don’t think people realize how amazing he is, just
Carey rushed for 138 yards and caught six passes for 36 yards
last week against USC.
OUT Of UTAH: Seven games into the season, the Utes will venture
out of Utah for the first time.
Utah’s only road game has been up the highway to Provo against
BYU. The Utes have played at home against Utah State, Weber State,
Oregon State, UCLA and Stanford.
”I don’t think that’s relevant,” Willingham said, ”but our
guys that have never been on a Division I road trip, which there’s
quite a few guys on this team that will be in that category, it’s
important that they handle themselves the right way and understand
how we operate.”
Utah plays four of its next five on the road, all against Pac-12
DENKER’S ARM: Arizona found out it had a passing game after all
in its loss at USC.
Denker threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns, both career
highs, against the Trojans. Even with that performance, the
Wildcats still rank last in the Pac-12 in passing, but Arizona has
shown it can pass with success.
”We obviously made a lot of progress,” Denker said. ”I was
happy with the performance from the offensive unit, definitely in
the second half. Going through film was a little frustrating
watching the lack of execution in the first half, if it would have
been like the second half I would have been a lot happier after the
UTAH’S STRENGTH: Utah went toe-to-toe with the strong Stanford
Cardinal, and that strength was apparent to Arizona coach Rich
”I think they’ve always been physical and they pride themselves
on that,” Rodriguez said. ”They’ve got some grown men so that
helps, too. Not just from a strength standpoint but from a maturity
Utah uses its strength on both sides of the ball, and that could
be trouble for the young Arizona defense.
”They are definitely a physical team and they are big,”
Wildcats defensive lineman Reggie Gilbert said. ”They’re
definitely a big team up front but we are just going to work hard
at using our hands so we can dominate the line of scrimmage.”
Willingham said the biggest reason for the success against
Stanford was the ability to run the football.
”The offensive line was a huge reason for that,” he said.
”Bubba Poole ran the ball exceptionally well.”
ERICKSON’S INFLUENCE: Utah’s marked improvement on offense
coincides with the arrival of longtime Pac-12 head coach Dennis
Erickson as offensive coordinator.
Erickson’s game plan against Stanford was masterful.
”I thought offensively they executed about as well as they had
all year,” Rodriguez said, ”and everyone knows how stout Stanford
is defensively. The quarterback played well, they ran very well and
were really able to do whatever they wanted to offensively.”