Head to Head: The Daily


Both Univeristy of Utah and University of Washington line up prior to a snap in an NCAA football game vs. Washington at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday Sept. 15, 2018. (Photo by Curtis Lin | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor

The University of Utah football team heads up to Seattle this week for an important showdown with the University of Washington. I sat down with Alec Dietz and Josh Kirshenbaum of The Daily at the University of Washington to talk some Utes and Huskies before Saturday.

All answers were emailed to me on Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019.


Sammy Mora: Washington versus Utah will have a family showdown as Puka Nacua will face his brother Samson for the first time in his collegiate career, how has Puka found his place in the UW offense? 

Alec Dietz and Josh Kirshenbaum: Puka Nacua might have more in-season hype around him than any other UW freshman right now, and in the past few weeks, the coaching staff has really increased his opportunities for production. After getting just 1 target through the first six weeks (for a touchdown), Nacua’s had 3 catches in each of the past two games. Fans have been clamoring for him to work into the offense more, but he really got his chance to step up with Aaron Fuller and Chico McClatcher suffering injuries, and he should feature a fair bit on Saturday.


SM: Utah has one of the best secondaries in the conference. Do you think Jacob Eason will test them, or will Washington try and pound the ball against a very solid Utah defensive line? 

AD and JK: Washington’s offense is always at its best when it can stay as multiple as possible, so if Head Coach Chris Petersen has his way, the Huskies will split it as evenly as possible. Last weekend against Oregon — which despite the loss, was one of their better offensive performances of the year — UW ran the ball 34 times and threw it 30. On the ground, Salvon Ahmed rushed for 140 yards, and in the air, Jacob Eason targeted six different Huskies multiple times. That being said, I’d guess Washington tries to run the ball more, just because that’s how it went last year against Utah. In the Pac-12 Championship game, UW threw 33 passes and ran 40 run plays. When the Huskies and Utes last met in Salt Lake City it was even starker, with 24 passes and 41 runs.


SM: Zack Moss has played really well this season. What is UW going to need to do to keep him contained?

AD and JK: Play the best game they’ve had this season. The best way Washington can keep Moss contained is going to be by forcing Utah out of rushing downs by getting the Utes into second and long and third and long. If Moss can get 4 or 5 yards on first down and be an option on second, the Huskies will be in for a long night.


SM: The Husky defense has had a few lapses this season. What are they going to need to do to make sure that Utah doesn’t take advantage of the littlest mistake they make? 

AD and JK: The coaching staff has stressed for weeks that they need to get turnovers, but that starts with getting pressure on the quarterback. Last week against Oregon, when the Huskies were able to get pressure on Justin Herbert, he made mistakes. The same thing happened against Arizona and Khalil Tate two weeks ago. Obviously the challenge is greater with an experienced mobile quarterback like Tyler Huntley, but if the Huskies can get him on the run and out of his comfort zone, they’ll be in good shape.


SM: Last season both meetings between these two schools were close. Do you expect the same type of game this year? 

AD and JK: Just looking at the way that matchups have gone the past few years, it doesn’t look like Washington and Utah do anything other than play close games. It’s an interesting dynamic, just because — at least on the UW side — there seems to be a huge sense of respect for Utah both from UW fans and coaches, and the series has routinely produced some of the best games every year. With a Utah offense that has owned the time of possession battle and a UW defense that plays a very bend-but-don’t-break style, I could see both teams limited to a couple of possessions per quarter, with it coming down to the wire at the end.


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