Game Guide: The Edge

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

Quarterback

The Utah offense received a huge shot in the arm last week with the return of Brian Johnson, but the junior still wasn’t playing 100 percent. Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig refused to call more than one option play, and Johnson threw a pair of interceptions. Look for them to open it up this week when they try to keep up with Brian Brohm and the potent Louisville offense. Brohm is currently averaging 389.6 passing yards and more than three touchdowns per game. The senior was a Heisman favorite at the beginning of the season, but has fallen since the Cardinals dropped two consecutive games.

Edge: Louisville

Running Back

Complementing an adept passing attack is a bruising pair of running threats in Anthony Allen and Brock Bolen. Allen has seen the majority of the action this season, averaging 115.6 yards per game. But against N.C. State last Saturday, Bolen compiled a career-high 112 yards to lead the Cardinals’ ground attack. On the other side, Darrell Mack has cemented himself as the Utes’ go-to guy after another solid week. The junior racked up 132 rushing yards against Utah State and currently averages 4.8 yards per carry on the season.

Edge: Louisville

Receiver

Not too many teams this season have a deeper or more talented receiving corps than Utah, but Louisville is definitely one of those teams. Senior speedster Harry Douglas is at the top of Utah’s list of worries, averaging 169.8 yards and one receiving touchdown per game. Offsetting Douglas’ speed is the size of Mario Urrutia on the other side. The 6-foot-6, 220-lb. Urrutia has been one of Brohm’s favorite threats this year and will likely give Utah fits. Meanwhile, the Utah receivers have yet to play to their potential, with none of them averaging more than 50 yards per game.

Edge: Louisville

Offensive Line

Speed and athleticism aren’t usually used to describe offensive linemen, but it’s not uncommon for those words to be used in reference to Louisville’s front five. All-Big East center Eric Wood anchors an offensive line that has only allowed four sacks over the course of this season. The Utes, on the other hand, have allowed nine sacks, but are starting to establish a legitimate ground attack. They will need to step it up this week as Utah faces an athletic Louisville defense.

Edge: Louisville

Defensive Line

Luckily for the Utes, defensive tackle/wrecking ball Amobi Okoye graduated last season. Filling in for Okoye this season is talented junior tackle Earl Heyman, who has recorded three sacks and 15 tackles in five games this year. The Cardinals’ rush defense has been subpar this season, allowing an average of 141.4 yards per game. Louisville still allows fewer rushing yards per game than the Utes though, who give up an average of 198 yards per game. Senior defensive end Martail Burnett leads Utah with three sacks, but the Utes have had a bevy of contributors.

Edge: Even

Linebacker

Louisville linebackers have a tendency to take turns, making big games. Against Kentucky earlier this season, middle linebacker Lamar Myles recorded 22 tackles. Against N.C. State last week, outside linebacker Preston Smith snagged a pair of sacks. As for the Utes, Joe Jiannoni will return to the lineup this week after sitting out a game with a sprained ankle. His return means fewer reps for the budding star Stevenson Sylvester, who has recorded 21 tackles, one forced fumble and one sack in the last two games.

Edge: Louisville

Secondary

The Utah pass defense is currently ranked ninth in the nation, allowing only 151.6 passing yards per game. RJ Rice stepped in for free safety Joe Dale a week ago and recorded nine tackles in his collegiate debut. Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ Rod Council leads the secondary with two interceptions and three pass breakups. Other than Council, the Cardinals’ defensive backfield hasn’t made too many plays this season.

Edge: Utah

Special Teams

Utah’s home game against Utah State last week saw the emergence of another special teams star for the Utes in punt returner Derrek Richards. The speedy senior lit the Aggies up for 135 return yards on just four attempts and took one to the house. As for the kicking side of things, this will probably be the first time Utah kicker Louie Sakoda has met his match. The Cardinals’ Art Carmody won the Lou Groza Award last season (best kicker) and has hit seven of his nine field goal attempts this season.

Edge: Even

Coaching

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe should be quite familiar with each other this time around, having met in last year’s Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl when Kragthorpe still coached Tulsa. The Utes came out on top in that game, 25-13. Now, Kragthorpe has the advantage of a better offense, coaching staff and more talented players.

Edge: Louisville