Mark Oberg

Utefans.net

The USC game was exactly what the Utes needed, at the right time.  USC played hard on defense, trying to be disruptive… until we popped the balloon with the flea flicker & the first TD in the 3rd.  Utah’s D made Kedon Slovis look pretty average, and though they racked up a lot of yards after we got a big lead, we did well defensively.

Next up is a game vs PAC South rival ASU at RES.  We need to show the progress demonstrated in the Colesium wasn’t a fluke, or just a matter of playing a program adrift.

I’ve watched a couple of ASU games so far – they’re an athletic, well coached team.  Even with three coaches suspended, the in game coaching doesn’t appear to be taking a hit, the Devils play hard and are focused on making this their year.  

ASU Defense

Particularly impressive is how former NY Giants LB Antonio Pierce has the defense playing.  With 6 games played, ASU allows just under 300 yards of offense, and only 16.2 points per game.  (The Utes have done reasonably well in 5 games, allowing 340 yards & 23 points per game.)

ASU went to a 4-3 defense starting last year, and they’ve kept that scheme this year, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Pierce tries to mix it up at the LOS and go with an uneven front (like Utah showed multiple times vs USC last week) to try and test our OL and see if they can mimic how BYU and SDSU were disruptive up front.

Where USC’s defense was very aggressive – at least initially – ASU seems like a more disciplined unit that will play hard, but is unlikely to sag if faced with adversity.

How Utah may attack

No question this game is a step up in competition.  For Cam Rising, the confidence and feel for the game shown at USC will be essential in how we attack ASU’s defense.  With no glaring weaknesses, we’ll need to be patient & try to extend some drives to bait their D into overplaying to get off the field.  Play calling will be crucial, and with the tools at his disposal really starting to develop, Andy Ludwig may need to be very unconventional in play calling to keep Antonio Pierce guessing what will be coming. 

Whether it’s Thomas, Bernard or Pledger – or a nice blend of all three – Utah will need to stay committed to the run game even though it may not be wildly productive.  We may need to crack up this defense using Covey, Vele & Parks on the ground, as ASU will probably be well prepped for the jet sweep Kuithe has patented.  A double reverse might work well if the Devils start over pursuing.

In the throw game it will be on Rising to make the right decisions, though I like our evolving threats that are coming into their own: both Kincaid & Kuithe at TE, Vele, Parks, Enis (if available), Covey, etc.  Our RBs out of the backfield in the throw game could be difference makers, as well.

ASU Offense

On offense, #5 Jayden Daniels at QB is polished, a good passer and a very effective runner, in particular punishing the Stanford D when it turned their back to him in coverage.   ASU’s receivers block well downfield, though they seem to lack the elite WR they’ve had in the past with N’Keal Harry or Brandon Aiyuk.  They certainly have talent and depth, with former Ute Bryan Thompson #22 blending into an already talented group. 

One potential matchup problem is 6-7 WR Johnny Wilson #14.   Having already battled USC’s next NFL WR Drake London, I think Phillips won’t have a problem lining up against the bigger Wilson, though Wilson gets a blend of the looks, unlike how USC went to the well all game with London.  Ricky Pearsall #19 is a precise route runner with good hands.

ASU’s RB corps is deep & talented.  Rachaad White #3 starts, with little dropoff to DeaMonte Trayanum #1 and Daniyel Ngata #4.

Up to this point the Devils have emphasized the run game & let Daniels & the throw game benefit from the defensive focus the run game generates.

Utah’s defensive gameplan

No question ASU will try to establish the run, so the front seven will be tested.  After getting gashed a little by USC’s running game early, we settled down and closed off the seams pretty well.  LBs Devin Lloyd, Nephi Sewell – spelled by Karene Reid & Andrew Mata’afa – will be expected to bottle up the RBs.  Our DL I think matches up well against ASU’s OL – size, quickness and ferocity.  DT Junior Tafuna #58 is quick enough he may get to the point of demanding a double, which would be enormously helpful.

Our young secondary is coming of age quickly, especially Clark Phillips III, who got half an NFL corner’s season’s worth of plays his way last week vs London.  This would be a great week for JT Broughton #4 to be available, though Faybian Marks #23 has held up well in his absence.  Nickel Malone Mataele #15 has been solid in coverage and very productive in run support and converging to where the ball is.  

This may be a game where Safeties Vonte Davis #9 and Kamo’i Latu #13 (along with McKinney #28 and Bishop #6) need to make quick reads and converge on the ball to limit damage done when receptions are made.  Daniels has been remarkably durable and very saavy, so the DL and LBs will need to wrap up went they bring pressure.

We’ll see how the game plays out, but I sense Scalley may need to dial up some exotic pressure packages to get Daniels to make a mistake, and possibly assign a spy if it comes down to Daniels making plays with his feet to extend drives.

Summary

Every game it its own story, but I think the homefield advantage and quickly dropping temperatures after 8p will be a significant factor on Saturday.

The Utes have what it takes to knock of ASU – talent, coaching, motivation, atmosphere –  I think they’ll do that and we’ll be loud & very happy after 11 PM.