No. 5 Stanford braces for Utah's up-tempo offense
SALT LAKE CITY (AP)
Stanford plays a mean defense whether it's against explosive offenses or accusations from rival coaches.
All week long, Cardinal coach David Shaw defended the integrity of his program after Washington's Steve Sarkisian asserted Stanford faked injuries to slow down the tempo late in a 31-28 win last weekend.
''We don't fake injuries. We never have and we never will,'' Shaw said. ''I don't condone it. I don't teach it. I don't allow it.''
Now, it's back to getting defensive on the field as the fifth-ranked Cardinal (5-0, 3-0 Pac-12) play another high-octane offense this weekend in the Utah Utes (3-2, 0-2), a team averaging 39 points.
And while a game against No. 11 UCLA is looming next week, Stanford players insist they're not overlooking a gritty Utes squad.
''They could be a lot better than their record shows,'' linebacker A.J. Tarpley said. ''So, we're not taking this game lightly.''
Much like it did with Keith Price last weekend, Stanford will focus on containing Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, who's over his illness - and ill-advised passes - from a week ago. Fighting a fever, Wilson threw six interceptions against UCLA, including one on the final drive that sealed the Bruins' 34-27 win.
Wilson and the Utes will try to bounce back against a stout Stanford defense.
''You still say, `There were six interceptions,' which is a huge negative, but it was not all on Travis,'' Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said on the team's website. ''In fact, very few were on Travis.''
What Shaw sees on tape is not an interception-prone quarterback, but a QB prone to making big plays. The 6-foot-7 Wilson accounts for 331 yards of offense a game for the Utes, one of the top marks in the country.
''It's about containing and making sure that we keep guys on all sides of him and squeeze him, because you can't let him scramble for the first down,'' Shaw said.
Here are five things to watch as Stanford goes for its 14th straight win, while Utah attempts to beat a ranked league opponent for the first time since joining the Pac-12 in 2011:
POISED HOGAN: Sometimes, Shaw forgets quarterback Kevin Hogan is still young and learning. These days, big things are just expected out of Hogan, who is 10-0 as a starter. A top priority this weekend will be getting Hogan back in a rhythm after a game against Washington in which he struggled throwing (12 of 20 with an interception) and converting third downs (4 of 14).
''He's not a finished product,'' Shaw said of his junior QB. ''He's going to have a couple more unbelievable games and he's going to have a couple more rough games. ... But what I love about him is he had a pit in his stomach the day after the game. Happy we won, but he wants to come back. He can't wait to play the next game.''
HIGH ANXIETY: Shaw won't do anything different playing in the higher altitude. Well, besides possibly a few more substitutions and having his players drink more water. ''Usually, with the altitude games, it's the first quarter-and-a-half, the first time you get a little winded trying to suck the air in,'' Shaw said. ''But your body adjusts.''
TY GAME: After returning the opening kick 99 yards for a touchdown last weekend, Ty Montgomery has a feeling the Utes may not send the ball in his direction. No matter, Montgomery said, fellow returner Kelsey Young is just as capable. ''They can kick it wherever they kick it,'' Montgomery said.
And that is precisely Utah's plan. ''We prefer touchbacks,'' Whittingham said. ''Ty Montgomery is a tremendous kickoff returner for Stanford. He's a real weapon ... We've got to try to keep the ball out of his hands.''
TAILBACK CAROUSEL: Whittingham is looking for someone to stand out at running back among Bubba Poole, Lucky Radley and Kelvin York. Until that time, he will rotate them. ''It's not a situation where we're searching for someone to give us some production, because we're getting production,'' Whittingham said. ''We're searching to see if anyone's going to separate themselves, and if not, then they'll all continue to get carries.''
POSITIVE RECEPTION: Utah wideout Dres Anderson has been difficult to cover all season, turning in four straight 100-yard games. He also has four catches of 50 or more yards, which is tied for most in the country. ''They have a very elite receiver,'' Tarpley said.
AP Sports Writer Antonio Gonzalez in Stanford, Calif., contributed to this story.