Against Oregon State's defense, Utah threw for 279 yards and averaged 14.7 yards per completion. In the previous week against Weber State, when Utah hung 70 points on the Wildcats, the threw for 290 yards. Stopping Utah's offense starts with containing mobile quarterback Travis Wilson.
"He's a zone read quarterback and reads it well," said Coach Howell. "He's got good straight-line speed and if he gets into the open field he has the ability to take it the distance. He keeps plays alive with his legs and he throws the ball good."
Utah likes to stretch the field with its passing game, while also mixing in a lot of screens and a ground run.
"I think all of their passing game is what I would consider a vertical passing game," said Coach Howell. "That's where they want to throw it is downfield, and they've got some good receivers. I would say it's a downfield passing game for sure."
Feeling they could match up well against Utah, Oregon State played man coverage. However, Utah made some good adjustments.
"Oregon State played a lot of man coverage, ton of man, and that opened up the screen game for them," said Coach Howell. "Utah took advantage of that and they adjusted really well. Their adjustment in the first quarter to what Oregon State was doing was right on. They screened the heck out of them and were able to run the ball to the boundary with the quarterback because there was nobody over there. They did a good job."
BYU plays a sort of man-zone defense, and it will be up to Wilson to find the seams for completions.
"It's not similar to what we run here, their passing game is different," Coach Howell said about Utah’s zone-read offense. "Their zone-read stuff is totally different. Utah's offense is similar to Texas I would say, maybe, but it's got its own little element to it. They have some similar concepts in their offense to Texas. There are some similar elements to the zone read, but I would say the passing game is quite a bit different but the run game is pretty similar. That's what I would say."
The primary target for Wilson this year has been field side receiver Des Anderson. Against Utah State, Anderson caught two passes for 59 yards. Against Oregon State, Anderson caught four passes for 101 yards.
"I think they block really well and number six Des Anderson is their best guy, and [Jake Murphy], their tight end, is probably the two targets he wants to hit, " said Coach Howell. "Then [Sean Fitzgerald] is trusty. They throw the ball to him down the field and he's averaging like 20-something yards a catch. I mean, they're all averaging 20-plus yards per catch because they're down-the-field throws. Then they run good routes and they block well. I like how they block and they try hard in blocking."
Utah running backs
There are three primary backs in the Ute backfield: Lucky Radley, Kelvin York and James Poole. While Lucky and York are primarily ball carriers, Poole is a versatile back who can also catch the ball out of the backfield.
“I think their running backs are good,” said Howell. “[Poole] is good and he's quick and got a little power in him. [York] runs hard, and [Radley] is kind of their changeup guy. [Karl Williams] is kind of their tough guy and kind of grind up a few yards."
In order for Utah to be successful and open up their passing game, the Utah backs will have to be successful against BYU's front seven. BYU will look to make Utah one-dimensional, forcing Wilson into passing situations where BYU can then dictate the situation.
"I think that they have to get around us in the run game," said Coach Howell. "Their quarterback, in order for them to be successful, has got to be pretty successful in the run game. In the throw game, if they throw it when they want to on first down and second down, and complete some downfield throws, it changes the game. If we can hold them to third down where we can dictate to them, then it changes everything.
"We have the same approach pretty much every week. Stop the run, don't give up the play-action pass, get them to third down and do what we want to. Their plan in my opinion has got to be get it over the top, get some down-the-field throws, and get the quarterback going a little bit."
Coach Poppinga gives some insight into the BYU vs. Utah rivalry and what it was like when he was a player instead of a coach. He also talks about the linebackers that he coaches and about members of the Utah offense.
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