Last game, the Washington Huskies faced a powerful running attack in the Oregon Ducks and suffered a heartbreaking 35-31 defeat.
On the season, the Huskies fell to 5-3 (2-3), with no clear path of winning a second consecutive Pac-12 Championship.
The Huskies were able to control the game up until the middle of the third quarter, when momentum started to shift.
Defensively, the Huskies had a superb game plan of stopping the run in the first half, but couldn’t sustain that in the second half.
On offense, the Huskies had some big strike plays early, but couldn’t convert the game winning drive opportunity at the end.
The Utah Utes are currently 7-1 (4-1) on the season, and last week they annihilated the California Bears 35-0 at home.
After suffering a 30-23 defeat to the USC Trojans earlier this season, the Utes have responded with a four-game winning streak.
“They have one of the best defenses in the country,” Washington head coach Chris Petersen said in regards to why Utah is a tough matchup.
The Utes are entering this game as the leaders of the Pac-12 South Division, and are currently the 9th ranked team in the AP Poll.
Here are some keys, the Huskies must do to put themselves in a good position to win this game…..
Stop The Run
It’s no secret that one of the glaring issues with the Husky defense so far this season has been the inability to stop the run on a consistent basis. Last game against the Ducks, Washington was able to have success for 2 1/2 quarters before they were unable to stop the run to finish the game. This week, the Utes bring to town one of the top running backs in the nation, in senior Zack Moss. Utah is averaging 219.4 yards per game on the ground. They like to impose their will and physical brand with the run. It will be absolutely imperative for the Huskies to stop the run for ALL four quarters this week. If they can stop the run and force Utah to throw the ball all over the field, then the Huskies will have a chance to win the game by coming up with turnovers in the secondary.
One thing that stands out about the Huskies losses so far is the lack of ability to finish out close games with a victory. Earlier this season against the California Bears, the Husky defense couldn’t stop them from marching down the field at the end, and winning with a field goal. Last game against the Ducks, it was the Husky offense who had an opportunity to march down the field and win the game, but couldn’t get it done. Sooner or later, the entire team is going to have to rally together and win a big game in the final moments. With #9 Utah rolling into town this week, and with the recent history between these two teams, the game will probably be decided on the final drive again. Somehow the Huskies have to show the “smarts” to finish out another big game opportunity.
Don’t Let Utah Quarterback Tyler Huntley Break Contain
The Utes offense is clicking this season, and their ability to score is evidenced by the 33.1 points per game they are averaging. One of the big reasons for that, is the consistent play of senior quarterback Tyler Huntley. What makes him so dangerous is his ability to beat with both is arm and his legs, as a true “dual threat” quarterback. The Huskies must “keep their eyes” and know where he is at every time they snap the ball. Deploy a “spy” on him and make sure he doesn’t break contain and leave the pocket. They must seal the edges and collapse the pocket where he feels confined, which can force some errant throws down the field. Huntley is a dynamic athlete, with the skill to run for big yardage. The Huskies must take that element away and force him to be one-dimensional.
Establish The Running Game Early
In order for the Husky offense to thrive and have success, they must establish a running game early in the first half. The big question marks this week are whether junior running back Sean McGrew and redshirt freshman running back Richard Newton are available to play? Last game, junior running back Salvon Ahmed had a fantastic game, but getting help with the workload off the ground would be a nice asset to have against Utah. By running the football successfully against Utah, will allow the Huskies to match Utah’s physicality. Also, by running the football, the Huskies can shorten the game with 5 to 6 minute drives, which will keep the Husky defense fresh for the fourth quarter. We just touched on “finishing” and having energy at the end may push the Huskies to victory!
A key piece that was missing during the Oregon game was the lack of turnovers created by the Husky defense. The Huskies are truly at their best when they play with passion and emotion, which is at its peak when the defense gets turnovers. It completely energizes the team and the sideline, which will be important in upsetting a top ten team like the Utes. In this matchup, usually this game is decided by a critical turnover down the stretch. The Husky offense has forced 13 turnovers and has scored on 11 (8 TDs, 3 FGs) of 13 ensuing drives. The Husky defense brought the physicality last season, as Utah junior wide receiver Britain Covey may or may not remember himself?! It all starts with a mindset, and the Husky defense needs to play fast and physical football!
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