Asiata out for season, Wide steps into spotlight

By Paige Fieldsted, Sports Editor

Asiata up the middle.

The phrase has become common in Rice-Eccles Stadium but is something Utah fans won’t hear for the rest of the season.

Senior running back Matt Asiata is out for the year after sustaining a season-ending knee injury to his ACL against Louisville on Saturday.

When Asiata went down in the first quarter, Eddie Wide became the Utes’ go-to running back, something that Ute fans will likely see the rest of the season.

“You’ve always gotta be ready,” Wide said. “So when (Asiata) went down, I had to pick up the rifle and keep going.”

With 19 carries for 129 yards, an average of 6.8 yards per carry, Wide proved to capable of filling the gap Asiata left in the Utes’ lineup.

The majority of Wide’s production came in the second half, including a 25-yard run on the opening play of the fourth quarter.

“I feel like I did a pretty good job,” Wide said. “It was pretty much reading what the offensive line was doing, and they made some nice holes, so I just took them.”

On several occasions, Wide took the direct snap, just like Asiata has done in the past, something head coach Kyle Whittingham said the team worked on in practice this week.

“We worked on that all week and that was our wrinkle,” Whittingham said. “That was something we had going in, hoping to get 8 to 10 snaps out of.”

Even though Asiata wasn’t at full strength for last week’s game against Oregon, Wide didn’t get the increased number of carries he saw against Louisville.

“We didn’t go to Eddie enough last week, and that was an error on our part,” Whittingham said. “We should’ve given him more opportunity in hindsight, and tonight we gave him opportunity, and he did a great job.”

Wide was a major factor in the Utes’ running game, as he led the team to 214 rushing yards, a major improvement from last week’s 119 against Oregon.

“The key over all to the football game was our ability to run the ball, over 200 yards of rushing,” Whittingham said.

Wide said keeping up the rushing effectiveness fans saw tonight will help the entire Utah offense.

“It plays a big part in opening up the passes for the wide receivers and quarterback so getting (the running game) is a big deal,” Wide said.

With Asiata out for the season, Utah will be looking at several other options to fill in at running back including Shaky Smithson and Sausan Shakerin.

Although the Utes’ running game will likely feel the impact of Asiata being sidelined, Whittingham said if other guys step up, there might not be major changes to the rush game.

“With Eddie’s production tonight, 19 carries 129 yards over 6 yards per carry, he did a great job,” Whittingham said. “If Eddie can keep putting up those numbers and we get Shaq and/or Shaky, it may not change our thinking at all.”

Whittingham said though the Utes will miss Asiata and will look into the possibility of him playing a sixth year, they are confident in Wide’s ability to take over as the No. 1 running back.

“We’re very confident in Eddie Wide; he’s a good back,” Whittingham said. “He’s got a lot of ability and a lot of talent, he’s just not a 25-30 carry a game like Matt is, but he brings a different dimension to the game with his speed and quickness.”

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