Head to Head: The Daily Barometer


The University of Utah football team sings the Utah fight song following an NCAA Football game vs. Washington State at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor


I reached out to Alex Luther, the Sports Chief of The Daily Barometer at Oregon State University, to talk about all things football heading into No. 15 Utah taking on Oregon State in Corvallis.


Sammy Mora: Who on Oregon States’s defense should Utah fans watch out for? 

Alex Luther: Utah should keep their eyes on two people — sophomore outside linebacker John McCartan and redshirt junior outside linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr. McCartan has had 15 solo tackles, four tackles for loss, and two sacks in the first five games of the season. Rashed has had 20 solo tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, and six sacks. Combined, the amount of pressure these two linebackers place on the quarterback is difficult to contain. Any quarterback needs to be aware of timeliness in the pocket if they don’t want to face this duo.


SM: Champ Flemming has blown up this year because of some fantastic catches, what does Utah need to do to shut him down? 

AL: Speed. The only way to contain Flemming is speed. It’s difficult enough to match him in terms of grit. Take for instance the catch versus Cal Poly. I say “the catch” because we all know the high reaching snag over a defender with more than a foot on him in height. The danger is underestimating his grit and speed on the field for the sake of height. To contain him, matching pace with his speed and his grit is the only way to keep him from earning that reception.


SM: Who else on the Oregon State offense should fans who usually don’t watch the Beavers look for? 

AL: Easily, Utah should be afraid of the Isaiah Hodgins and Artavis Pierce duo, especially with their chemistry with Jake Luton. Hodgins and Flemmings give a good pairing of options for receptions, whereas Pierce will do anything to power through for the extra yard. And with those three in mind, you can’t look past the consistency and growth of Jake Luton. His development over the last few seasons easily contributed to his success in UCLA, which sets him up for further success for the season. The combination of reliable options with both receivers and backs leaves Luton with options and the ability to rely on his offense to complete the downs necessary to grind forward.


SM: What does OSU need to do to stop the two-dimensional Utah offense?

AL: Two key things are needed for Oregon State to stop the Utah offense — wrapping up in tackles and pacing out the receivers to end plays before they begin. A noticeable issue for the Beavers’ defense in the last few years is the inability to wrap up tackles. Instead of driving the play to the ground, it is unfortunately common to see defenders attempt half a tackle and hope the receiver or back goes down. To be successful against rush offenses, they need to maintain consistent techniques in wrapping up. In contrast, the defense is still fine tuning how to end a pass play before it happens while also avoiding a pass interception. While the pressure on the offensive line and the quarterback is improving, reading routes to match pace with receivers is crucial to any form of success in containing pass offenses.


SM: Do you think the OSU offensive line will hold up against the aggressive Utah defensive line? 

AL: It’s difficult to say. The OL is one of the most veteran aspects of the Beavers’ overall team, but we’ve seen them make mistakes in the past. Take for example the end of the first half versus Stanford. Two major sacks could have been avoided with a stronger showing from the OL. However, the OL is also key to Luton having time in the pocket to find and connect with any of our receivers. It will really depend on the day and likely the tone that is set early in the game if the line will be able to match Utah’s defensive pace.


SM: How do you think that beating UCLA will change the way that the Beavers head into the game versus Utah? 

AL: The Beavers have momentum. Finally. Winning a road conference game is huge, and will absolutely bring in momentum against Utah. I’m sure the team is spending extensive time in the film room reviewing the UCLA game and catching up on Utah’s film to see how they can apply what worked in Pasadena when they face the Utes. Being a ranked opponent, matching up against Utah will bring a different feel to the game and the stadium that helps with home field advantage. I would expect that it’s extremely possible for the Beavers to have one more upset where they win a game they shouldn’t. Utah might be one of the best opportunities for this upset following their win versus UCLA.


The Utes and Beavers will face off this Saturday Oct. 12 with kick set for 6 p.m. MT.


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