Was Washington’s seven-touchdown performance a sign of an awakened offense? Here’s a preview of the opponent tasked to help answer those questions.
Players To Watch
#7 SR 6’7” 233-pound QB Travis Wilson
2015 stats: 131 of 190 for 1432 yards, 68.9% completion, 7.54 YPA, 10 TD, 7 INT, 142.3 RAT, 72 carries for 294 yards, 4.1 YPC, 60 long, 4 TD
Sneak Peak: Not all mobile quarterbacks are short. Senior quarterback Travis Wilson is a perfect example. The 6-foot-7 lanky quarterback ranks third among Pac-12 quarterbacks in rushing yards. He also completes 68.9 percent of his passes. He is a relatively efficient quarterback, averaging 7.54 yards per attempt, which is good for seventh in the conference. He has had interception issues this year. Otherwise, Wilson is a solid quarterback who moves well.
Husky Comparison: A much taller, more polished K.J. Carta-Samuels
#23 SR 5’11” 201-pound RB Devontae Booker
2015 stats: 200 carries for 966, 4.8 YPC, 62 long, 9 TD, 32 catches for 282 yards, 8.8 YPC, 43 long, 0 TD
Sneak Peak: The Ute offense goes as Devontae Booker goes. Not only does Booker lead the team in all rushing statistics, but he also is tied for the team lead in receptions. Booker doesn’t go down at initial contact and has the speed to bust a big one if he’s got room to run. Whether he’s catching passes out of the backfield or taking handoffs from Travis Wilson, Booker is going to make his impact felt.
Husky Comparison: A bigger Myles Gaskin
#18 FR 5’8” 166-pound WR Britain Covey
2015 stats: 32 catches for 381 yards, 11.9 YPC, 66 long, 4 TD
Sneak Peak: True freshman slot receiver Britain Covey has taken the Pac-12 by storm. Covey is small, shifty, and speedy. He can make people miss in the open field and then turn the burners on. His crisp route running helps him create the space that he uses to put defenders on ice skates.
Husky Comparison: Jaydon Mickens
#51 SR 6’3” 270-pound DE Jason Fanaika
2015 stats: 32 total tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 FF
Sneak Peak: After spending his first two years at Utah State, Jason Fanaika transferred to Utah in 2013. He sat out his first year, but immediately became a producer in 2014 at both outside linebacker and defensive end. Now as a full time defensive end, Fanaika has supplied a great deal of pressure off the edge. His presence will be felt by Jake Browning and the rest of the Husky backfield.
Husky Comparison: Joe Mathis
#41 SR 6’2” 240-pound LB Jared Norris
2015 stats: 57 total tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sack, 3 PD, 1 FF
Sneak Peak: Senior linebacker Jared Norris is part of a deadly duo of senior linebackers. He is a tackle machine and an essential part to Utah’s great run defense. It’s not easy to make him miss in space. Myles Gaskin, Dwayne Washington, and the rest of the Washington tailbacks have their hands full.
Husky Comparison: Azeem Victor
#13 SR 5’10” 225-pound LB Gionni Paul
2015 stats: 75 total tackles, 10.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 4 PD, 2 INT, 2 FF
Sneak Peak: The second part of Utah's tackling tandem with Jared Norris, Gionni Paul is a monster and a half. He averages nearly 10 tackles per game while tallying more than one tackle for loss per contest. He’s even batted a few passes away and intercepted two as well. His two forced fumbles have been crucial in developing Utah’s success when it comes to the turnover battle. Paul makes plays all over the field. Expect to hear his name called a lot Saturday.
Husky Comparison: Keishawn Bierria
#20 SO 6’0” 190-pound S Marcus Williams
2015 stats: 43 total tackles, 1.0 TFL, 5 PD, 4 INT
Sneak Peak: Sophomore safety Marcus Williams stands atop the Pac-12 leaderboard in interceptions, leading the Utes to top the conference charts in the same category and helping his team to 19 forced turnovers during the season. Quarterbacks beware… Marcus Williams is dangerous.
Husky Comparison: Budda Baker
What the Utah Offense looks like
Other than standout tailback Devontae Booker, there isn’t a lot about this offense that grabs your attention. The Utes rank eighth in the conference in scoring and tenth in yards per game. Only Oregon State throws for fewer yards per game. However the Utes still score an average of 33.8 points per game, largely due to their great turnover margin and 41.0 percent success rate on third down. Stopping Booker is the key to stopping this defense, but that’s easier said than done. He makes an impact in the run and pass game, as he is tied for the team lead in receptions. Washington had a tough time stopping Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, another back that catches passes out of the backfield, when they faced the Cardinal. Keeping Booker in check would force Utah to throw the ball, which they’ve struggled doing. Their eight interceptions thrown is third worst in the conference. While their offense is far from the best the Huskies have faced, they demand respect and have consistently put up decent numbers.
What the Utah Defense looks like
The Utes tend to rotate between their base 4-3 and nickel looks on defense. Regardless of their set, senior linebackers Jared Norris and Gionni Paul set the tone for this gritty group. Their 21.4 points allowed per game ranks second in the Pac-12 behind Washington. The best part of the Utah defense is their ability to stuff the run, allowing only 113.1 yards per game on the ground. The Utes average more time of possession than any team other than Stanford in the Pac-12, largely due to the fact that they have forced the second-most turnovers in the conference. They are particularly apt at picking the ball off, which account for 13 of their 19 turnovers forced. The Utes are consistent, allowing fewer than 25 points in seven of their eight games. Any way you cut it, this is a talented defense that makes it hard for offenses to move the ball, hold onto the ball, and get the ball in the end zone.
Keys to the game
- Win the turnover battle: A large part of Utah’s success can be credited to their success in the turnover battle. However, Travis Wilson has thrown his share of interceptions this season. Washington has tallied the third most picks in the Pac-12. Taking care of the ball will be crucial for the Utes’ success in Husky Stadium.
- Ground and Pound: In their four losses the Huskies have allowed 170.5 yards per game on the ground, which is 33.9 yards per game more than their average. Devontae Booker has the talent necessary to put up some big numbers, and if Washington is without Elijah Qualls in the middle, 170 yards is not too far-fetched.
- Pressure Jake Browning: Washington Head Coach Chris Petersen said Monday in his press conference that Jake Browning is pretty good and accurate when he can set his feet. If the Utes can make it so he cannot set his feet, they may have a chance to add to their 13 team interceptions.
- Win the turnover battle: Yes, this is the one of the keys for Utah as well. It really is important enough to include twice. The Utes have forced 19 turnovers in just eight games. However, they’ve turned the ball over 11 times as well. Both teams have defenses with a knack for getting the ball back. We’ll see which one takes care of it best.
- Run the ball well: In their four victories the Huskies are averaging 157 yards per game on the ground. While plenty of teams are averaging way more than that number, that is almost 25 yards more than Washington averages. Establishing a consistent rushing attack will be crucial for the Huskies.
- Contain Devontae Booker: This guy can hurt you in a number of ways. Whether he’s catching passes or taking handoffs, the Huskies need to get keep him in check at all times. It’s nearly impossible to stop him, but containing him is doable.