by Scott Funk (scottfunk0)
Salt Lake City – After an emotional rivalry week, the Utes (2-0,0-0) will wrap-up their non-conference schedule this Saturday night when they welcome the San Jose State Spartans (1-2,0-0) to Salt Lake City.
Players to Watch For:
Utah – Offensive line, The entire offensive backfield, Chase Hansen (?)
The past couple of weeks the Utes have been taken out of sync and rhythm on their drives as a result of costly penalties. In their last game against BYU, the Utes had a total of 11 penalties for 97 yards. This is the last chance for the offensive line to clean up the mental errors before they begin Pac-12 play.
“Coach harding expects perfection,” said junior offensive lineman Jackson Barton. “We’ve got to stay focussed and work on the fundamentals to clean it up.”
The backfield for the Utes have a great opportunity to have a huge game against the Spartans. Coming into this week, the Spartans are ranked 122 nationally, out of 129 teams, in rushing defense giving up 306 total yards per game. Tyler Huntley is the leading rusher for the Utes, averaging 79.5 ypg and has a team-high three touchdowns. Whittingham stated at practice that he would like to see more production from the running back position, and expects that to happen this week.
Chase Hansen. The biggest question mark of the week. Hansen was not in the game during BYU’s final drive last Saturday and was not at practice on Tuesday. When asked about his playing time for this week, Whittingham responded with a quick “no comment.”
When asked about resting players this week Whittingham replied, “Absolutely not. We play to win every week. So the answer is no. unequivocally no. We’re gonna go full speed. We play the same way every week.”
No one knows if we will see Hansen on the field or not, but we’ll have our questions answered about his health either way. Whittingham stated earlier in the year, he’ll only play Chase if he is 100%. And he made it clear this week he does not rest players for seemingly “easier” games.
San Jose State – Defensive Line and Frank Ginda
The defensive line for the Spartans must be present this week for the Spartans to have a chance. They need to be the first line of attack for the Spartans defense and try to shut down the run game and get in the backfield of the Utes. They’ve given up 306 yards on the ground. For the Spartans to have a shot at this game, it starts at the frot of their defense.
Behind that defensive line is junior linebacker Frank Ginda. Ginda is second in the nation with 14 tackles per game. He’ll be one of the key factors in stopping the Ute’s up-tempo offense and forcing takeaways. He has a total of 42 tackles over three games this season.
The Utes are putting up an average of 464 ypg which ranks them seventh in the Pac-12 and 39th nationally. They average 194 yards on the ground, and 270 through the air. This season Huntley has a 75.3% completion percentage that ranks fifth in the Pac-12 and 15th nationally.
On defense the Utes are third in the Pac-12 and 29th nationally in scoring, giving up 14.5 ppg. They have a Pac-12 best and 12th best rush defense giving up just 59 ypg. They also give up 178.5 passing ypg which ranks them fifth in the Pac-12 and 51st nationally.
The Spartans average 18.7 ppg, with 346 ypg. They average 140 on the ground, and 206 through the air. Their defense gives up 37 ppg and 468 ypg, ranking their total defense 109th overall out of 129 FBS teams.
Darren Carrington has been the leading receiver for the Utes with 17 receptions for 256 yards. Huntley leads the rushing attack with 79.5 jpg and 159 yards on the year.
Coach Whittingham gave his take on spreading the ball around earlier this week: “As long as we get the yards we need, it doesn’t matter who its coming from.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. MDT. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and can be heard on ESPN700.
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