Utah-Oregon St. Preview
After going on the road and upsetting a top-10 team, Utah is looking to pick up where it left off before its bye when it again travels to take on a Pac-12 rival.
Enjoying their best start since opening 8-0 in 2010, the 20th-ranked Utes try to avenge last year's loss to Oregon State on Thursday night.
Utah (4-1, 1-1) climbed four spots in this week's AP poll despite having a week off. The Utes are ready to get back to business after stunning then-No. 8 UCLA 30-28 on Oct. 4.
Nate Orchard tied a school record with four of the team's 10 sacks and Andy Phillips kicked a go-ahead 29-yard field goal with 34 seconds left. The Utes ran all over the Bruins, outgaining them 242-137 on the ground.
"When you rush for 242 yards against the talent that UCLA has in the front seven, you've done some good work," coach Kyle Whittingham said. "I've never understood what the word `signature win' is, but this is a big win for us on the road. It says what our capabilities are if we play a complete game and play smart and play a full 60 minutes."
Devontae Booker racked up 156 rushing yards and a touchdown while quarterback Kendal Thompson ran for 83 yards. Thompson, who replaced starter Travis Wilson after two series, completed 10 of 13 passes for 95 yards and a score.
Though Whittingham was in no hurry to name a starter ahead of Thursday's showdown, many believe Thompson will get the call. He could be in for a stiff test against Oregon State (4-1, 1-1), which has allowed a conference-low four passing TDs and 198.8 yards per game through the air.
"You're only as good as your next game, and I just continue to strive forward and try to get myself better as a player and be prepared for whatever happens," Thompson said.
"We had some good production (against UCLA) but we were still a little ineffective in the passing game, and I feel like we've yet to tip the ice on that. If we can get that going along with the running game, the sky is the limit for the offense."
The Utes have dropped back-to-back matchups against the Beavers, falling 51-48 in overtime last Sept. 14. Utah ran for 260 yards but had no answer for Sean Mannion, who threw for 443 yards and five touchdowns.
Mannion figures to be under more pressure this time against the Utes, who lead the FBS with 28 sacks despite having played a game or two fewer than most schools. Utah is giving up an average of 21.4 points to rank third in the conference, more than a touchdown lower than last year's mark.
Oregon State, which was also off last week, held on for a 36-31 victory at Colorado on Oct. 4. Terron Ward and Storm Woods led the charge with a combined 171 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
"Looked like good balanced football and that will help us as we go forward," coach Mike Riley said. "I was really proud of how we fought. You always want better execution and all of that stuff but I think our kids battled, their kids battled and we're glad to win.
"It feels a lot better to be 4-1 than 3-2."
The Beavers were handed a 35-10 loss at then-No. 18 Southern California the previous week in their only matchup against a ranked team. They have dropped six straight and 12 of their last 14 against Top 25 foes.
Slowing down Booker could prove key if Oregon State hopes to break through. The junior college transfer, averaging 102.6 rushing yards to rank fifth in the Pac-12, has run for 334 over the last two games.
The Beavers have surrendered a conference worst-tying 11 rushing TDs.