Don’t take your eyes off …
Tyler Huntley’s health could be a big factor in how the Utes attack the Cougars, and how the Cougars defend the Utes. It isn’t so much a matter of if he’s playing or not playing. Huntley came out Tuesday and told reporters he’s been cleared to suit up for Saturday’s game against Washington State, after limping with an apparent foot injury in the previous game against USC. Huntley’s mobility and ability to escape are essential components of Utah’s offense. While the QB’s upper body is in fine shape after taking a number of hits against the Trojans, it’s fair to wonder if the foot injury would discourage him from cutting loose against the Cougars, who’ve allowed opposing signal-callers to rush for 161 yards and four touchdowns the past two games.
When WSU has the ball …
They scored 63 points last Saturday, but the Cougars were far from perfect on offense, turning over the ball six times with five in the second half of an upset loss to UCLA. Given that WSU hadn’t fumbled once in its first three games, it was shocking to see the Cougars do it four times in one game, though in a midweek interview a few days after the game, Bruins linebacker Josh Woods said UCLA noticed on film the Cougars had a tendency to carry the ball loosely. If Mike Leach could sew the ball to his wide receivers’ hands, he would, but we’ll see if the additional, or intensified, ball security drills have paid off for the Cougars. Leach called those drills “classified” and didn’t specify what the team had done to work on holding the ball, but you can imagine it was a point of emphasis after the UCLA catastrophe.
When Utah has the ball …
Huntley’s good to go for the Utes, but the other half of Kyle Whittingham’s backfield is still a question that looms large. Zack Moss, a senior running back who’s projected to be taken early in the 2020 NFL draft, left the USC game with a shoulder injury. All signs point to the 1,000-yard rusher missing his first full game of the season, though Whittingham was coy with his injury report earlier in the week, simply telling reporters he’s hopeful every Ute is available for the game. If Moss can’t play, Devin Brumfield, a sophomore from Louisiana, is the next player on the depth chart. He logged 10 carries for 63 yards after Moss left the USC game. But expect the Utes to use two backs, turning also to junior Devonta’e Henry-Cole, a Floridian who’s more experienced than Brumfield and ran for 279 yards in 2017 before redshirting in 2018 because of an injury.
Did you know?
WSU’s Anthony Gordon still has a way to go before he sniffs the NCAA’s single-season record for touchdown passes, but through four games he’s ahead of where Hawaii’s Colt Brennan was at the same point of a record-setting 2006 season, when the Rainbow Warriors quarterback threw 58 TDs. A nine-touchdown game against UCLA last weekend vaulted Gordon to 21 on the season, meaning he’s seven touchdowns ahead of where Brennan was at this same juncture 13 years ago. If the Cougars play eight more regular-season games and a bowl game, Gordon would need to average 4.1 touchdowns per game the rest of the season. If he doesn’t do that, the redshirt senior could at least secure the Pac-12 record. He’s nearly halfway there, needing just 22 more TDs to match the 2016 record set by Washington’s Jake Browning.
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