Utah is 0-3 outside of the state of Utah this season, having been outscored 98-48 in the process.
Injuries are also now compounding Utah's problems. They find themselves turning to a one-time walk on quarterback who will make his second career start Saturday in Pullman, trying to keep alive Utah's fading hopes of earning a bowl bid.
| Cougars (5-5) vs Utes (4-6)|
AT A GLANCE
12:30 pm Pacific Time
Players to Know
Adam Schulz, QB: With Travis Wilson lost for the year, Utah has placed its hopes in the third-year sophomore. In limited action, he has 428 passing yards and two touchdowns, but his 46.7 percent completion percentage and two interceptions leave him with plenty to prove. He is much smaller (6-1, 205) than the 6-7, 240-pound Wilson and lacks his kind of mobility. But he has shown some heady play at times and has a surprisingly strong arm. Schulz saw his first action in mop-up duty against WSU last year, completing two throws for 52 yards.
Bubba Poole & Lucky Radley, RBs: The passing game wasn't exactly lighting it up before Wilson got hurt, so even more of the offense figures to fall on the running backs' shoulders now. Expect Poole and Radley to get a ton of carries in an effort to control the clock and shorten the game. The two running backs have combined for 1,163 hashes of total offense (978 rushing) and five touchdowns. Kelvin York is Utah's bruiser back, but he is questionable with an undisclosed injury.
Dres Anderson, WR: Son of UCLA's Willie "Flipper" Anderson, Dres is Utah's biggest receiving threat. Anderson has 779 receiving yards and six touchdowns this season. He will do his best to threaten the Cougar secondary, but the running game should be the Cougs' primary concern.
The addition of co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson has not improved this offense, thought Erickson insists Utah is "close." Some fans have been displeased with his conservative playcalling and earlier complained about a regression in Travis Wilson's play this season. The Utes have averaged just 16.3 points their last seven games and will face the Cougar D without their best player in Wilson. They still have their o-line to fall back on however, an enormous group averaging 322 pounds.
This should be a similar story to last week, only the Cougars are playing at home and they won't have to face Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey. The Utes will show spread formations, but run defense should be the Cougars' primary concern. When Wilson was in, he was a huge threat to bust a team with the zone-read option at any time. Schultz will still run some of that but doesn't have Wilson's speed and will hand off more than Wilson did. The key here is also the same as last week – play assignment defense and keep the eyes where they should be.
Touchdown-to-Interception Ratio: Utah can sympathize with WSU's turnover problems. Utah passers have thrown 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions this season.
THE UTES ON DEFENSE
Players to Know
Trevor Reilly, DE: A very good blend of speed and size, he leads the team in tackles (83), tackles for loss (15) and sacks (8.5). Ranks second in the conference in sacks and will be coming at Connor Halliday from his blind side.
Nate Orchard, DE: Reilly's counterpart on the left side. Played wide receiver in high school and brings tremendous speed with his now bulked up 255 pound frame.
Utah's defense is clearly the strength of the team. They held a potent ASU offense to just 20 points two weeks ago in a game Utah, frankly, should have won. Utah still says their base is a 4-3 but that's not the reality on Saturdays, they mostly run a base nickel secondary anchored around an outstanding defensive line that leads the nation in sacks and has held opponents to just 3.3 yards per rush attempt. Fans have seen a 4-2-5, 4-3, 3-4 and a 5-3 this season. And even though they run a lot of nickel, it isn't because they're playing to their strengths there. Indeed, Utah is lacking in the secondary. The Utes have managed just two interceptions this season and their pass efficiency defense ranks just 83rd.
Once again, the Cougars should change little of the game plan that was so successful last week. Utah will be protective of its secondary and will try to attack Halliday before he has time to throw. The defensive line is very fast and will do everything possible to force turnovers. From my chair, WSU should take the pressure off Halliday by running the ball with regularity. Swing passes and bubble screens could also be effective and will help to wear the defensive linemen down. Utah's ends are outstanding but their speed can be used against them. Their tendency is to swing wide and surge quickly upfield – and that renders them susceptible to big holes on draw plays and in the quick passing lanes WSU likes to exploit under Mike Leach.
Sacks per game: 3.6. How's this for putting Cougar Nation on alert -- Utah leads the nation in sacks. When teams have consistently gotten to Halliday this season, the Cougar offense has imploded. He will need to operate quickly, efficiently and when things go wrong, he and the Cougar offense cannot let it weigh them down. Utah is going to make plays on defense, they are going to win some series -- and they're more likely to do their best work early. It figures to be key how the WSU offense responds to any potential adversity.
THE UTES ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Utah has a freshman kicker in Andy Phillips but he has handled the job well making 15-of-18 attempts, although he as only attempted one kick longer than 48 yards.
-Utah looks to be emotionally hanging by a thread as the losses have piled up, but they are still well-coached. They got within three points of Oregon in the third quarter before the Ducks took control.