football Edit

Burning Questions: Utes Head into Week 4

The University of Utah is reeling from a two-game losing streak, being upset by two non-P5 opponents. Being down late to San Diego State forced a much needed quarterback change that energized the Utes offense thanks to the emergence of Cam Rising and has now led to the transfer of Charlie Brewer.

Let’s take a look at last week’s questions and also look forward to this week against Washington State:

How will the leadership respond?

It was a mixed bag. The offensive and defensive lines were once again brutal. Charlie Brewer dealt with a collapsing pocket most of the night, while SDSU ran all over Utah to the tune of 204 yards on 45 attempts. It wasn’t an eye-popping yards per carry, but it made it so they only passed the ball 19 times.

Britain Covey responded with eight receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown, while also adding six punt returns for 132 yards and an 80 yard touchdown. In fact, Covey was prominent in the offense the last quarter and into overtime, as sophomore captain Cam Rising came in at quarterback and provided the spark to almost complete the comeback.

Devin Lloyd was also his usual solid self, recovering a fumble and leading the team with 13 tackles.

Most of the leaders played well, but that doesn’t say much for the rest of the team, as they lost.

How will the offensive line respond?

Brutal. If you thought the BYU game was bad, the first three quarters against San Diego State were worse. Once Rising came in, it seemed like their weaknesses were masked due to his mobility and they started protecting and executing their blocking assignments better. Sadly for Brewer, the group has been incapable after three games of blocking for a pocket passer.

Who steps up next on offense?

Cam Rising and Britain Covey, have a day fellas! Aside from these two, Brant Kuithe and Solomon Enis performed well each with seven receptions for 58 and 56 yards, respectively. Enis also caught the two-point conversation to go into overtime.

Also not talked about enough is the emergence of big-play threat Jaylen Dixon once Rising came into the game. These guys couldn’t complete the comeback, but the juice that was brought to the offense at the end of the third quarter and into overtime was evident.

Was the BYU game an outlier for the defense?

Nope. Enough said.

Now to this week’s questions…

How will the secondary perform after losing Broughton for the season?

This one hurts as JaTravis Broughton is an All-Pac-12 performer, but freshman Faybian Marks would be starting on a fair amount of P5 teams. What it does impact though, is the depth of a young group. Therefore, that’s where questions will arise. Freshman Zemaiah Vaughn Is a former walkon who impressed in 2020 and already earned a scholarship. Redshirt-freshman Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson also emerged in fall camp.

These guys are about to get tested, so the only question is this: how long will any early struggles last as they’re getting used to increased playing time?

How will the defensive tackles perform after losing Viane Moala for the season?

Typically no one stresses when Utah has to go into their defensive tackle depth, but after two subpar performances—one in which saw Viane Moala go down for the season—it’s a cause for concern.

One-time linebacker Junior Tafuna has packed on the weight and emerged as a 6-foot-3 and 290 pound force. He’s joined in the starting group now by Devin Kaufusi. With Moala out, there’s likely to be a lot more rotating with guys like Hauati and Tennessee Pututau.

The depth is there, but can the production get back to Utah standards? That’s the question.

Will the offense come to life led by Rising?

There’s no question that Rising brought juice to an offense that seemed completely deflated. His energy, confidence and swagger rival Tyler Huntley. The excitement among the players should continue early and be something the guys feed off of. If they can finally get off to a good start, the confidence should grow from there and even impact the struggling offensive line like it seemed to last week.

Rising wasn’t perfect last week, as some passes were skipped and it took him a few drives to get rolling. That’s what happens typically though when a quarterback comes in cold. With a full week to prepare as “the guy,” Rising should show the pinpoint accuracy that’s been talked about in the program for the last two years.

Additionally, Utah finally found a rhythm that worked for them with their uptempo offense, as more and more of the receivers began to emerge during Rising’s time.

The guys, and especially Rising, will be out to make a statement against Washington State.