Utah Defensive Line vs Arizona Offensive Line
Utah Defensive Line
Utah's defensive line is heading into Saturday's game against Arizona after playing arguably its best game of the season. Last week against Oregon State the unit accounted for 16 total tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks; but it wasn't just the statistics that made their effort so dominant. They completely shut down the OSU running game up front and created a consistent pass rush that had Beaver quarterback Sean Mannion hurrying throws all afternoon. A new Ute star was born as senior defensive tackle Tevita Finau had a breakout game. Finau finished the contest with 5 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and 3 sacks thanks to the attention being paid to fellow tackle Star Lotulelei. By the end of the night he had established himself as another dominant force on an already talented Ute d-line.
Arizona Offensive Line
Like Utah, Arizona has had to battle a few injuries along the offensive line this season. The Wildcats have rotated three different players at left guard where starter Chris Putton has been suffering with a nagging ankle injury for most of the year. If Putton can't go against the Utes watch for freshman Carter Lees to once again play in his place. The youngster has started two games this year including last week against Washington and has played well but he could be in for a nightmare matchup against Utah tackles Star Lotulelei and Tevita Finau if forced to start this week. The Wildcat line has allowed an alarming 16 sacks on the season, so pass protection against a very aggressive Utah front-four will likely be an issue for Arizona once again.
Utah Linebackers vs Arizona Running Backs and Tight Ends
Utah's linebackers, while not the flashiest, are certainly the most consistent unit on the team. Chaz Walker seems to lead the defense in tackles every week and Saturday's game was no different. Walker finished with 11 tackles and added a forced fumble and tackle for loss to his impressive 2011 statistics. Outside linebacker Matt Martinez made a wonderful defensive play in the passing game to intercept Beaver quarterback Sean Mannion. His pick in the fourth quarter and all but sealed the win for the Utes. And Trevor Reilly, Utah's ‘do everything' linebacker, broke up a pass and recovered a fumble to go along with his six tackles on the day. Utah lost another linebacker for the season, their second LB and seventh player lost this year due to injury. J.J. Williams joins fellow linebacker Boo Anderson who was injured during the loss to Cal.
Arizona Running Backs and Tight Ends
Wildcat running backs Keola Antolin and Ka'Deem Carey split time in the backfield in Arizona's pass-first offensive attack. Antolin has been a good runner for the Wildcats this season rushing for 423 yards through 8 games including 4 runs of over 20 yards. His 5.1 yard-per-carry average leads all Arizona running backs, while his 116 yards receiving make him a dangerous dual-threat out of the backfield. Backup Carey has rushed for 4 touchdowns on the season which is the most by any Wildcat back, and his 4.2 yard-per-carry average make him a viable change-of-pace back behind Antolin. At tight end David Douglas is a solid pass option for quarterback Nick Foles. Douglas had a great game earlier this year against Oregon finishing with 7 receptions for 120 receiving yards, and he's averaging over 10 yards per catch. He has yet to find the endzone this season, however, and he shouldn't be a matchup problem for Utah's Matt Martinez.
Utah Corners and Safeties vs Arizona Quarterback and Wide Receivers
Utah Corners and Safeties
This Utah defensive backfield continues to grow before our eyes as every Saturday they turn in a better performance than they did the week before. That's a good trend, because they'll likely face the most dangerous passing attack remaining on their schedule and the best quarterback/wide receiver combination they've seen since USC. The rapid development of multiple players in the Utah secondary has been a pleasant surprise. Freshman safety Eric Rowe has often played well above his level of experience would suggest and cornerback Mo Lee continues to impress each week as he very smoothly completes his transition from wide receiver to corner.
Arizona Quarterback and Wide Receivers
Nick Foles is without a doubt the third best quarterback in the Pac-12, which is no knock against him considering the top two are Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley, both projected to be NFL first-round draft picks. Foles is an extremely dangerous quarterback with an arm capable of making every throw on the field. He's very intelligent, he doesn't make many mistakes, and he has many dangerous weapons around him. Foles has thrown 20 touchdowns this season and he's completing a staggering 70.0 percent of his passes on the year. After just 8 games he has already passed for nearly 3,000 yards. At receiver, Juron Criner is the guy to keep your eyes on this Saturday. Although he missed a game earlier this season, Criner still leads the team in receptions (47), receiving touchdowns (8), yards per game (79.9), and is second in receiving yards (559). Dan Buckner, Arizona's leading receiver, will miss Saturday with a separated shoulder, but Gino Crump and Austin Hill are dangerous receivers who add good depth to the Wildcat passing attack.
Utah Offensive Line vs Arizona Defensive Line
Utah Offensive Line
Major improvement was seen on the Utah offensive line last week. The missed assignments and dumb penalties that have held this group back lately were gone and instead we saw great blocking and a consistent push up front that helped John White rush for record yardage. Utah's two sacks allowed against the Beavers were an improvement over previous weeks but is a number that still needs to get better. The line was hit hard after the game when it was announced co-starter Latu Heimuli would miss the remainder of the season with a foot injury. The injury happened during warm-ups prior to the game against the Beavers and is Heimuli's second injury to the same foot (he was forced to redshirt in 2009 with a similar injury). Heimuli was moved to offensive line during fall camp to add depth to an already very thin group, which means this unit is now as thin as ever and can ill-afford another injury.
Arizona Defensive Line
The Wildcat defensive line is considered by most to be the weakest unit on this team. If you take a look at the numbers, it's hard to disagree. Arizona is allowing a whopping 174 rush yards per game, 5.0 yards per carry, and they've given up 19 touchdowns on the ground this season. Going even further, the starting four on the line have only combined to make 7 tackles for loss and 3 sacks this year. The only consistent defender on the Wildcat front line is defensive end C.J. Parish. Parish is 7th on the team in tackles and he leads his unit in total tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks. Arizona saw success last week after moving starting freshman tackle Kirifi Taula outside to defensive end and he'll likely start there again this week. Don't expect to see a lot of success from Taula against Tony Bergstrom, though, and John Cullen should be good enough to neutralize Parish.
Utah Running Backs and Tight Ends vs Arizona Linebackers
Utah Running Backs and Tight Ends
If the Utah offense is an engine, then running back John White is the fuel. Simply put, if White isn't performing his very best then this offense has no chance to consistently move the ball. Last week against Oregon State White had his best game of the season and it showed on the scoreboard. His 205 yards on 35 carries was just what Utah needed allowing the offense to lean more on him and less on Jon Hays. Tight end Jake Murphy finally made it back on to the stat sheet last week with his first two receptions since the BYU game. With the loss of Dallin Rogers for the season, Murphy now needs to step up and be a bigger contributor in the pass game. Kendrick Moeai also needs to make an impact on offense. He has big play potential and is a great receiver but has yet to make any noise this season.
This is a much better defensive unit than their front-four and will give Utah the biggest resistance in the run game. Linebacker Paul Vassallo is Arizona's Chaz Walker. He's a very steady defender who leads the team in tackles and is always around the ball. Expect to hear his name often as the Wildcats do their best to contain John White on the ground. Derek Earls is a sound linebacker on the outside who is good in both run and pass defense. Earls will likely matchup with the Utah tight ends on passing plays and will do a good job defending Murphy and Moeai through the air. True freshman Tra'Mayne Bondurant led the team in tackles last week at Washington and has really begun to come into form. His quickness and athleticism make him a threat to pressure the quarterback and his on-the-ball skills help make him a good pass defender in coverage. He has the ability to double as a nickel defender in pass coverage without losing a linebacker body against the run. If the Wildcats choose to load the box on first and second down to force Utah to pass, the success of their strategy will depend on the play of this unit.
Utah Quarterback and Wide Receivers vs Arizona Corners and Safeties
Utah Quarterback and Wide Receivers
Six completions for 65 yards will rarely be enough from a quarterback to win a game in the Pac-12, but when Jon Hays is your guy sometimes you have to make it work. Utah did a great job against Oregon State of creating a lead built around the run game, only asking Hays to throw when absolutely necessary. When he did throw, Hays finally showed fans he has the ability to get the ball to an open receiver downfield and fit a pass into a tight spot when needed. His two touchdowns to Dres Anderson and Devonte Christopher proved that Hays CAN make throws; he just can't make them for four quarters. Anderson and Christopher took advantage of touchdown opportunities when they were presented and Utah does have guys on the outside that can exploit a defense, they just need to continue to work hard to get open and do their best to make plays when they get the chance.
Arizona Corners and Safeties
Arizona's defensive backfield is in a bit of a flux right now due to suspensions and injuries. Starting corner Shaquille Richardson will likely miss Saturday's game due to an ankle injury, and backup Cortez Johnson may have to sit as well because of concussion problems. If those two are out, redshirt freshman Jourdon Grandon will get the nod against an offense that should allow him to play well despite his lack of experience. Senior safety Robert Golden has not practiced this week because of dehydration, but will most likely play against the Utes. Golden returned an interception 91 yards for a touchdown in the loss to Washington last week. Free safety Marquis Flowers is the team's second leading tackler and corner Trevin Wade is excellent in coverage. Wade's 8 pass breakups lead the team and his two interceptions should scare Jon Hays away. He'll likely lock up DeVonte Christopher all night.
Unit Matchups - Utah at Arizona
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