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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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Utes look to keep focus for Utah State

By Chris Kamrani, Asst. Sports Editor

Call the ambulance

Brian Johnson is healthy as can be. Ditto for the formerly injured Matt Asiata and Brent Casteel. Only two games into this young season, the Utes are becoming deathly ill at the defensive tackle position.

After starter Kenape Eliapo broke his foot in Ann Arbor, Mich., his replacement, sophomore Lei Talamaivao, fractured his right fibula in the first half of Saturday’s winning game against UNLV. The good news for the Utes and Talamaivao is, although it’s a season-ending injury, he will be able to use his redshirt this year, after playing as a true freshman last season.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham threw out names such as Koa Misi and Derrick Shelby as players who could potentially play inside.

Also mentioned in the defensive end merry-go-round will be David Kruger, who, Whittingham said, will “most likely” be pulled out of his redshirt year.

“(I) can’t give a definitive answer on how it’s all going to stack up today,” Whittingham said. “Certainly, as we progress, we gotta get that thing solidified and ironed out.”

Whittingham mentioned starting outside linebacker Nai Fotu as a potential insert into the defensive end position, should Misi or Shelby make the move inside.

Greg Newman is the only defensive lineman who has escaped the fire unscathed. Newman has started both games this season and will be looked upon to tutor a now considerably younger defensive tackle corps.

“I don’t get any breaks,” Newman said. “You know, I’m out there every snap. I’m in shape, and I feel great. The coaches have put their trust in me, and I feel confident.”

Starting left tackle Zane Beadles (sore knee), starting free safety Robert Johnson (hamstring) and change-up quarterback Corbin Louks (shoulder) have all been upgraded to probable for this week’s game against Utah State, Whittingham said.

Heading north

Now that the No. 22 Utes have vindicated themselves against Frank Summers and UNLV, the focus and preparation now heads north toward Logan and Utah State.

The demons were exorcised after last year’s letdown in Las Vegas in front of the third-highest sell-out in Rice-Eccles Stadium history, with 45,587 in attendance.

The Utes overcame a shaky first half to come out with a vengeance in the third quarter, scoring 21 straight points and riding the momentum all the way to a 42-21 victory over the Rebels.

“There were a lot of positives going on Saturday night,” Whittingham said. “We got the win.”

The Utes are now looking forward to facing in-state rival Utah State, which combined with Utah form the 12th oldest feud in the nation, dating back 107 games. The Aggies are coming off a 66-24 loss to Oregon in which the defense gave up 416 yards rushing to an electric Duck offense. The Utes have yet to have a 100-yard rusher this season and the offense8212;whether it admits it or not8212;will be looking to kick-start every facet of the offense this weekend.

Brian Johnson knows coming off a tough loss could actually be a positive for the Aggies, especially against a rival.

“Anytime that you play (Utah State), you know you’re gonna get their best shot,” Brian Johnson said. “Those guys are coming out to beat us. It’s gonna be a battle.”

Considering this in-state rivalry is older than the “Holy War” itself, it sheds light on what this annual, historic meeting means to both teams.

“When we do our Utah experience during training camp, old players come and talk about rivalries,” linebacker Stevenson Sylvester said. “It really pumps you up, so you know rivalries is always big. You never know what’s gonna happen every year.”

A tale of two halves

In each of the Utes’ first two games, the offense has looked unstoppable8212;but just for one half. The season opener at the Big House saw the Utes reign supreme against Michigan in the first half. During the first half of Saturday’s game against the Rebels, the offense was lucky to come out with two touchdowns.

“We started out a little bit sluggish,” Whittingham said. “The 14 points was not all bad for a half of football offensively, but certainly not what we accomplished in the second half.”

The second half was a revelation for a U offense that simply had trouble moving the football. Prime field position was one of the keys to the third quarter, with returners David Reed and John Peel setting up the offense in pristine scoring position.

“(Reed) almost had one go the distance and just had the kicker to beat,” Whittingham said. “John Peel appears to be our punt return guy. He solidified himself there.”

Despite the impressive special teams play, the U offense must address the issue of playing superbly one half and faltering in the other. Although the Utes are preparing to face an inferior opponent, the practice and preparations must be made the same way.

“Coach Whit always talks about the process and respecting the process,” Brian Johnson said. “We have to realize as a team, we have four or five days to get ready for a team. We have to cherish each one of those days, take it one day at a time and one practice at a time. That will ultimately help us get our goal on Saturday.”

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Tyler Cobb

With injuries at defensive tackle position Greg Newman, the only one to avoid injury in the first to games, will be asked to teach the young lineman.

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