With two home games remaining on the schedule, the University of Utah football team will cross one of those off on Saturday, Nov. 11 as it hosts Washington State. To gain insight on the Cougars, The Daily Utah Chronicle spoke to Dylan Greene, the football reporter for the Daily Evergreen, the Washington State University student newspaper, to discuss the upcoming game.
Q: What was working for Washington State in its 24-21 victory over Stanford?
DG: The Cougars Air Raid offense was working. They moved the ball up and down the field against the Cardinal. Luke Falk had 337 passing yards, three touchdowns and completed nearly 71 percent of his passes. Falk led the team on a 94-yard game winning scoring drive in the fourth quarter. The WSU defense also showed up and held Heisman hopeful running back Bryce Love to 69 rushing yards.
Q: What does the Utah defense need to do to cause trouble for Luke Falk and the Cougars’ offense?
DG: The Utes needs to apply pressure on Luke Falk and make him feel uncomfortable. The WSU offensive line has been up and down all season and has struggled to protect Falk. Falk also likes to hold on to the ball for an extended period of time. If Utah can get pressure on Falk and disrupt his rhythm, then the Utes will be able to slow down the Cougars offense.
Q: After Falk became the Pac-12 career passing yards leader against the Cardinal, how did he look at that accomplish?
DG: Falk doesn’t care very much about breaking records. He has broken numerous records this season and pushed them to the side and instead focused on the performance of the team. He acted the same way after breaking the Pac-12 passing yards record against Stanford. The only record he took pride in breaking was becoming the Cougars all-time winningest quarterback. Falk is all about the team and he never lets personal records overshadow the performance of his teammates.
Q: A win against Utah would do what for Washington State?
DG: It would allow them to continue their chase for a Pac-12 North title and a spot in the conference championship game. WSU has to win its final two regular season games against the Utes and the University of Washington to accomplish this. Utah can also help out the Cougars by letting us win this weekend and beating the Huskies next weekend.
Q: What/Who do the Utes need to be prepared to face on Saturday afternoon?
DG: There are two players on the WSU team that the Utes need to keep an eye on at all times. The first player is wide receiver Tavares Martin Jr. Martin has 705 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on the season. The 6-foot-1-inch junior is Luke Falk’s favorite target in the red zone and Martin catches nearly every pass thrown his way. The second player is defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa. He is a nightmare for opposing offenses and is in the backfield on almost every play. He has 6.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. The Utes will need to double team Mata’afa all night and be aware of where he is lined up.
Q: Who will win? And why?
DG: Before last week, I would have said with no hesitation that the Cougars would come out of Salt Lake City with the win. But after watching the Utes blowout win over UCLA, I have started to question the Cougar’s chances of leaving Rice-Eccles Stadium with a victory. In the end though, I think Luke Falk will play like he usually does and the Cougar defense will do just enough to beat the Utes. I’m clearly bias, but I think WSU will win by a final score of 38-28.