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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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Ute defense to be put to the test

By Liz Frome

Although weeks one and two for the Utes have been more challenging offensively than fans thought they’d be, the defensive side of the team has been showing its ability to iron out some wrinkles.

At home against Utah State, without senior defensive end Koa Misi, the defense started out by allowing 17 first-half points, but managed to keep the Aggies scoreless in the second half.

The Utes’ defense held Utah State 0-12 on third-down conversions, proving that they can stop the ball in critical moments.

At San Jose State, against a team that was manhandled 56-3 by USC just one week prior, the defense seemed more comfortable than the offense during their first road game of the season, forcing a turnover and holding the Spartans to 3 of 12 on third-down conversions.
Utah State and San Jose were able to give the young Ute team some trouble, but this week’s game against Oregon should be the Utes’ biggest defensive test to this point in the season.

The Utes are 2-5 against the Ducks in Autzen Stadium and 8-17 in overall meetings. The Utes beat Oregon in their last matchup in Salt Lake City in 2003, claiming their first win over the Ducks since 1994.

Oregon’s senior running back LeGarrette Blount won’t be playing Saturday because of a season-long suspension that came after hitting a Boise State player after the Ducks’ loss in week one. Oregon’s traditional run game won’t be as strong without Blount.

Utah’s defense, though no longer concerned with Blount, will still have their hands full with a different rusher8212;junior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said Masoli will be the Utes’ biggest defensive test of week three.

“(Our biggest challenge this week will be) trying to contain that quarterback,” Whittingham said. “The guy gained almost 1,000 yards last year, and he’s a big rusher this year. He’s the guy we really have to try to slow down.”

Last season, Masoli was a potential redshirt for the Ducks, and was fifth in line for the starting quarterback spot before the season opener. He ended up as a 10-game starter and was the Pac-10’s third most efficient passer and eighth leading rusher.

Masoli hasn’t demonstrated incredible passing yet this season, however, and the Utes might have a few opportunities to cause some turnovers if they can complete on the plays.
“Probably the main ingredient in creating takeaways is hustle,” Whittingham said. “We’ve had two or three picks that we haven’t capitalized on because we just haven’t finished the play. We’ve got to continue to strip and rip the ball out. We’re teaching it the same as we always have.”

The Utes have taken a few injury blows early in the season that might present some problems against Oregon, but few have been on the defensive side. Defensive tackle Latu Heimuli broke his foot and will be out for the year as a redshirt, but he is the only big injury the defense has suffered so far this season.

Fans have circled this game on the calendars, and it should be a preview of what Utah’s defense will look like against tough conference teams it’ll play later in the schedule.
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