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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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What it takes


Saturday’s tone may be decided in the first quarter–perhaps even in the first few minutes of play. BYU is well known for its ability to strike early and take huge early leads. If that happens Saturday, it’s not good news for the Utes. When they score first, they’re 6-0; when they don’t, they’ve won just one game (a 45-7 victory over Northern Arizona at the beginning of the season).

One of the team’s problems (and there were many) during its early season struggles was the fact that the offense couldn’t get going early on, if at all. The Utes fell behind, their game plans went up in smoke, etc. Given the two teams’ tendencies, the Utes may be well served to try opening up the field to put the Cougars on their toes. Then again, maybe not–the BYU pass defense has picked off a conference-best 16 passes this season, compared to just seven touchdowns.

The point is the element of surprise can be a dangerously good asset. That’s what the Utes did last year, and it worked perfectly. With everybody (Ute fans included) expecting the little-known Brett Ratliff to remain in the pocket during his first Division-I start, Andy Ludwig and Co. went against conventional wisdom and Ratliff totaled more than 100 yards on the ground. This wasn’t just exclusive to the offense, either–the defense pulled out its bag of tricks as well, using never-before-seen formations designed to confuse John Beck and the high-powered Cougar offense–and it worked.

Going in, BYU coaches are probably expecting the Utes to come out and throw a few swing passes and hitches, methodically marching down the field. They’ll be expecting the running game to be secondary. They’ll expect Eric Weddle to line up at quarterback and take a few carries.

So if history serves (history, in this case, being last year’s win), the Utes will try to exploit the middle of the field instead of the sidelines–and Bradon Godfrey could factor in big. Perhaps Weddle could even throw a few more passes; after last week’s 73-yard performance against Air Force, BYU knows Weddle can run the ball. He’s only thrown three passes this year–let’s see if he can get a few more.

But the Utes’ strategy is hard to predict or suggest simply because the best plays are probably the ones we haven’t seen yet–maybe Whittingham and Co. have a few more tricks up their sleeves.


If national rankings mean anything, then by all means the Cougars should beat the Utes–but since when did that kind of logic mean anything in this rivalry?

The element of surprise probably won’t factor in as much for the Cougs. They are who they are and it doesn’t matter who knows it–they just get it done week in and week out. They like to pick apart opposing secondaries with short and midrange routes and pound Curtis Brown up the middle. More than anything, they rely on Beck; the likely MWC Offensive Player of the Year has completed 71 percent of his passes this season for a league-best 173.8 passer efficiency rating.

In order to do to the Utes what he has done to practically every other team he has faced this season, he needs to look no further than the Utah/New Mexico game. Lobo quarterback Donovan Porterie completely exploited the middle of the field, using a variety of middle-to-deep passes to come from behind for the victory. Suddenly, the U pass defense–even Weddle, at times–looked vulnerable, and the Utes couldn’t adjust to that weakness. Beck clearly has the ability to have success in the same area–and if he does?well, few teams have been able to play catch-up with BYU this season.

Lennie Mahler

Wide receiver Brent Casteel juggles the ball trying to gain possession of a pass from Brett Ratliff. The Utes, winning only one game in which they were not the first to score, will need to perform early on and throughout the game to ensure a victory.

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