This hasn’t been a fun week for Utah Utes fans, coming off a disappointing 26-17 loss to the BYU Cougars, snapping a nine-game winning streak.
The loss marked the first time in 4,305 days that Utah had lost to their in-state rivals, a time that spans over 11 years. Losing to the Cougars may make many Utes fans pessimistic in regards to the season, but there are still several weeks left for this Utah squad to turn things around.
Utah will have the chance to regain some momentum this Saturday facing off against the San Diego State Aztecs. This game, though technically hosted by the Aztecs, will be played at Dignity Sports Park, where the L.A. Galaxy play.
Fans of the NFL might recognize the stadium, as the Los Angeles Chargers played there for three seasons while they waited for SoFi-Stadium to be built.
The Utes will need to put some things in the rearview in order to get their season back on track, and they can start by eliminating some turnovers.
Utah committed two turnovers against the Cougars, both in the first quarter, one by air, and one by ground. Quarterback Charlie Brewer heaved an ill-advised pass while under pressure that fell straight into the hands of an eager Cougar defender, and on the next drive, running back Tavion Thomas lost the ball while being tackled.
While the two turnovers only produced three points for BYU, they cost the Utes potential points and gave the Cougars excellent field position. If Utah wants to take care of San Diego State, they’ll need to avoid such turnovers. San Diego State has an offense that has outscored their first two opponents a combined 66 to 24. They are not the kind of team that you want to give extra possessions to.
Putting Together A Game Plan
Coach Kyle Wittingham is a great college football coach who has been elite at putting together a defense and consistently improving on offense. That being said, it appeared that BYU was able to counteract most of Utah’s offensive plays, and found ways to create chunk yardage against the Utes defense.
In this game, I hope to see Wittingham, alongside Offensive Coordinator Andy Ludwig and Defensive Coordinator Morgan Scalley, become more creative on both sides of the ball. The Ute defense played well on the majority of plays last game, but was prone to deep throws and was unable to take the ball away from the Cougars. The Aztecs, who had committed three turnovers in their season opener, may prove vulnerable to an attacking defense and press coverage. Wittingham and the Utes should be looking to these weaknesses as opportunities to shut down San Diego State.
Offensively, the Utes were able to find some deeper throws down the middle of the field, but otherwise avoided taking deep shots. Brewer, Ludwig and Wittingham should be able to expand a conservative passing game against BYU. The running game may prove more difficult to utilize, as the Aztec run defense is extremely tough- they’ve only allowed 97 rushing yards in their first two games.
If Utah is going to win this game, they’ll be more likely to find success in the air. Tight ends Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid should be able to find space in the middle of the field, while receivers Theo Howard and Solomon Enis can force defenders to be wary of any deep throws on the sidelines.
Even after all the struggles against BYU, and even after San Diego State has proven to be a dangerous team to play, I predict that the Utes will be able to bounce back in a big way against the Aztecs, winning 31-21.
Both teams enjoy a physical style of play, but this favors Utah more than it does San Diego State. Utah has the strength on the line of scrimmage to negate the Aztecs’ running game, and star linebacker Devin Lloyd will have no shortage of opportunities to wreak havoc in the backfield. The Utes will look to throw the ball early and often, letting QB Charlie Brewer prove his worth to the team.
The game will be played on Saturday, September 18th at 5:00 p.m. MST. CBS Sports will have the broadcast available to watch.