Utes find their groove to beat Louisville

By By Liz Frome, Staff Writer

By Liz Frome, Staff Writer

The Utes’ loss to Oregon last week at Autzen Stadium devastated fans and players alike, as their 16-game winning streak came to a heartbreaking end.

The game highlighted the trouble Utah has had in performing consistently on offense and defense so far this season and revealed potentially weak spots in the lineup. This week, however, the Utes performed like a different team8212;the ones fans watched all throughout the 2008 season. They no longer looked like a group of individual players and meshing new-comers, but a team of experienced athletes.

“We played our most solid football game of the season so far, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “Offense, defense, special teams8212;we were more of what we expect to be tonight.”

The Utes came off their 31-24 loss to Oregon hungry to get back on the right foot. The defense forced three fumbles in the first half, blocked Louisville’s first field goal attempt of the game, and stuck to individual assignments to contain Louisville running back Victor Anderson and force the pass from quarterback Justin Burke.

Prior to Saturday’s game, defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake said the defense’s ability to rely on each other would be crucial to come away with a win.

“The run defense struggled last week, so we knew we would be successful if everyone did their assignment,” said senior linebacker Kepa Gaison. “We came out and played a complete game and made some big plays.”

Utah’s defense was not alone in showing improvement, as the offense demonstrated its versatility by racking up 416 yards that were split almost evenly between rushing and passing.

In prior weeks, Utah’s run and pass games have produced varying, inconsistent performances, trying to incorporate a slew of new athletes and a developing quarterback. Terrance Cain has performed well in a new offense in earlier games, but posted numbers Saturday night that usually only go hand-in-hand with experience and composure. He ended the night with only five incompletions on 17-22, including a 42-yard pass to senior wide receiver David Reed. Cain has struggled with the long ball so far in the season but proved he can deliver as he led the Utes in their 30-14 win over Louisville.

The team also managed to overcome a barricade of injuries throughout the game. Senior starting running back Matt Asiata suffered an ACL injury in the first quarter, ending his season with the Utes. The blow could have caused some problems for last week’s Utes, but as a seemingly remastered team, Utah was resilient and did not let the injury deter from their ultimate goal of bouncing back from defeat and claiming a win.

Junior running back Eddie Wide took over the run game after Asiata’s injury and ended with 129 yards on 19 carries, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. The direct snap to Wide worked for the Utes, and Wide showed he was capable of handling a bigger load than he had received in the Oregon game.

“Everyone on this team has confidence,” Wide said. “We lost a lot of great soldiers tonight, but the rest of us on the team just have to keep going.”

With a bye week next Saturday, the Utes will have time to recover from minor injuries and will begin their conference schedule Oct. 10 against Colorado.

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