Utah Football Looks for Much Needed Victory in Conference Opener Against Washington State


University of Utah sophomore quarterback Cameron Rising (7) in a NCAA Football game vs. University of Southern California at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday November 21, 2020.(Photo by Tom Denton | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cole Bagley, Sports Editor


Outside of last year’s shortened and adjusted season, the University of Utah football team is 1-2 for the first time since 2007. Following a few unexpected losses to non-conference opponents, the Utes are in desperate need of a victory as they open up Pac-12 play against Washington State at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday. 

Scouting the Utes

Ranking: N/A

Record: (1-2, 0-0 Pac-12)

Last Week: L vs SDSU, 31-33

Uniform Combo: White helmet with interlocking U’s, red throwback jersey, white pants

It’s been an underwhelming and disappointing start to the season for the Utes as they’re coming off back-to-back losses to BYU and San Diego State. However, after an inspiring performance by Cameron Rising coming off the bench in the game against SDSU, Utah seems rejuvenated and refocused on their goals of a Pac-12 Championship, regardless of the recent losses.

After a poor performance by Charlie Brewer through two and a half quarters of play, the Utah coaching staff decided to give Rising a shot and he did not disappoint. The sophomore transfer from Texas was magnificent as he went 19-32 for 153 yards and three touchdowns in just a quarter and a half. Even though the Utes trailed 10-24 with less than five minutes left in the game, Rising orchestrated back-to-back scoring drives and even a two-point conversion to tie the game and send it to OT.

While Utah would eventually still lose, Rising demonstrated a very calm demeanor and an elite level of leadership as the offense was the most productive they had been all season. 

In regards to the receiving room, the wealth was pretty evenly distributed as multiple receivers went for more than 40 yards and three of them caught touchdown passes. Overall, Britain Covey recorded the most catches as the veteran receiver hauled in eight passes for 46 yards and a touchdown.

As for the run game, the backs struggled as not a single one went for more than 50 yards. Despite the lack of production, Micah Bernard led the room with 47 yards on 17 carries (2.8 average).

Defensively, Utah had a great performance in terms of yards allowed, only giving up 248 total to the Aztecs. However, the run game was difficult for the Utes to stop as San Diego State ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns.

Utes to Watch

Cameron Rising

All eyes will be on Rising this week as he makes his first official start of the 2021 season. With his impressive performance late against the Aztecs, it will be interesting to see if he can replicate it and be the spark that turns this season around for the Utes.

The Utah Secondary

While the Cougars are just 1-2 as well this season, quarterback Jayden De Laura has arguably been Washington State’s most productive offensive weapon. Through three games, De Laura has thrown for 575 yards and six touchdowns. If the Utah secondary can step up and lock down their assignments, it will make it hard for the Cougars to stay in the game if De Laura is held in check.

Hear it From Coach

“We haven’t really been as physical running the football as we anticipated we were going to be,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We’re not throwing the football for as much production as we need to. We’re not throwing it badly, but we’re not getting out of it what we need to to win games. We’re playing better in the trenches defensively, I know that’s not the question, but offensive-line-wise we’ve still got improvements we’ve got to make. We’re better talent-wise than what we’re portraying on game day, and that’s got to translate, we’ve got to play to the level of our capabilities.” 

Scouting the Cougars

Ranking: N/A

Record: (1-2, 0-1 Pac-12)

Last Week: L vs USC, 14-45

Uniform Combo: Matte charcoal helmet with red decal, white jersey, charcoal pants

In addition to a rough 1-2 start to their season, Washington State is recuperating after a blowout loss to USC. Despite leading 14-0 early on, the Cougars conceded 45 unanswered points en route to a 45-14 loss.

In a game with very little offense for the Cougars, De Laura was perhaps the most productive as the sophomore quarterback went 10-19 for 117 yards and 2 touchdowns. As for his favorite receiver, Calvin Jackson Jr. was the most productive, recording 94 yards on eight receptions.

In regards to the run game, the backs finished with just 99 yards as they were dropped for losses on multiple occasions. Max Borghi led the room with 72 yards on 13 attempts.

Defensively, Washington State struggled immensely as they allowed 447 yards of total offense, 73 plays and an average of 6.1 yards per play. USC Freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart absolutely scorched the Cougar secondary as he went 30-46 for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

Cougars to Watch

Jayden De Laura

As previously mentioned, De Laura has been the only bright spot for the Cougars early on. Through three games, De Laura has accounted for approximately 52% of Washington State’s 1,101 yards of total offense. If he’s shut down, it’ll be a long day for the Cougars.

Calvin Jackson Jr.

Jackson Jr. has been one of De Laura’s favorite targets through three games as the graduate receiver has recorded 262 yards and a touchdown on 18 receptions (14.5 average). If Utah can contain Jackson Jr., it’ll greatly impact the production of De Laura and the Cougar offense as a whole.

How to Watch

This week’s game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network with kickoff set for 12:30 p.m. MDT.

Roxy Bernstein and Lincoln Kennedy will be the TV crew on the game. Fans can also listen to the game on the Home of the Utes, ESPN700 with Bill Riley and Scott Mitchell on the call. 


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