Utah Defensive Preview

Utah's defense has plenty of talent, led by Star Lotulelei. Read on for a closer look at that talent, including the keys to scoring on it.

Coming off a big loss to Washington that put the Utes against the wall in terms of their bowl eligibility, Utah will host the Arizona Wildcats this weekend.

Utah's loss put its record at 4-6 (2-5 in Pac-12) and put itself in a do-or-die situation. If the Utes win out, they are bowl eligible. Drop a game to either Arizona or Colorado in the remaining two games and the season ends in a week and a half.

The first task for Utah will be the Wildcats, a team that has been lighting up scoreboards all season long. The key to the game for Utah will be the defense, as the Utah offense will be able to score, but can't keep up with a high-powered offense likely led by Matt Scott.

Utah will be facing an offense that is efficient in running and passing the ball, but may focus on stopping the run based on what happened against Colorado.

The Utes are only allowing 110.7 rushing yards per game and although it isn't a phenomenal number, if Utah can limit Arizona to that number on Saturday, it will have done its job.

It all starts with the all-star front line of Star Lotulelei and Joe Kruger. Together, they have combined for 15.5 tackles for loss on the year. It is a big challenge to go against them in the trenches, but Arizona's frontline may be up to the challenge after opening up holes a week ago for Ka'Deem Carey's masterful 366-yard rushing performance.

On the back end of the defense, Utah is allowing 235.7 passing yards per game. That may be the weak point Arizona will focus on, especially if Matt Scott is the quarterback, as he has averaged 316.4 yards for the Wildcats.

Utah only has four interceptions on the season and isn't a threat to quarterbacks in that sense. However, the Utes have broken up 39 passes this year and should keep a close eye on the Arizona receivers with Lotulelei bringing pressure up front.

Ryan Lacy has the most passes defended for the Utes with six and also has the most interceptions on the team with two. The senior has trailed off late in the season, but shouldn't be overlooked along with teammates Trevor Reilly and Brain Blechen, who have combined for 101 tackles.

With Arizona's offense, the key will be Matt Scott. If Scott can play mobile and run the offense, then Utah's defense will be in trouble. However, if he is still hampered by the concussion that he suffered two weeks ago or if B.J. Denker starts, it may limit the offense and allow Utah to focus in on one particular aspect of it.



Players to watch:

#92 DT, Star Lotulelei – The defensive lineman is the biggest threat on the Utah defense. Lotulelei can get in the backfield in a hurry and blow up plenty of plays. If Arizona can't stop him at the line, it could be a long day for the quarterback.

#9 LB, Trevor Reilly – The 24-year old senior is the team's leader in tackles and forced fumbles. Reilly hits hard and is wherever the ball is on game day. Look for him to have plenty of battles against Wildcats this weekend.

#4 S, Brian Blechen – Blechen is second in tackles on the team with 55, despite not playing the first three games of the year. He has been a consistent contributor for the defense and should be a factor on the field against the Wildcats.

Keys to the game:

1. Attack the edges: Last weekend, Arizona was able to run straight up the middle against Colorado. This weekend, the Utah front line won't allow the Wildcats to power right through it. Carey will need to stretch the field and get to the outside in order to find success.

2. Contain the Star: Star Lotulelei is one of the best defensive linemen in the country, if not the best. He is projected to be a top-5 pick in the NFL draft and can wreck havoc in the backfield. The Wildcats need to focus on stopping him in order for the offense to succeed.

3. Keep it balanced: One of the things that Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham praised Arizona for was the ability to balance the run and the pass on offense. Utah will try to pressure the Wildcats into one or the other, but Arizona needs to keep the Utes guessing in order to win.


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