No. 10 Washington prepares for ‘aggressive’ Utah defense

Washington knocked off Utah with a miraculous rally last season.

The No. 10 Huskies hope it doesn’t come down to a frantic finish this time around.

Washington’s 10-point, final-minute finish hasn’t been forgotten as the Huskies (1-1) visit the Utes (2-0) on Saturday in the Pac-12 opener for both teams in Salt Lake City.

“We always have great games against Utah,” Huskies sophomore linebacker Ryan Bowman told reporters. “It’s always a competition. We’re going to try to be on our toes and maybe more detailed than we were last year.”

Last year saw the Utes on the verge of pulling off a big upset at the raucous lakefront stadium in Seattle.
But Washington put together a drive to tie the game on Myles Gaskin’s 2-yard run with 58 seconds left. Some suspect clock management by Utah led to the Huskies getting the ball back with 29 seconds left and they drove 51 yards to set up Tristan Vizcaino’s 38-yard field goal as time expired for an improbable 33-30 victory.

The collapse left the Utes 1-10 all-time against the Huskies, though Utah coach Kyle Whittingham points out that his program has given Washington some tough games in recent seasons, including a victory in 2015.

“We can stand toe-to-toe with them and play with them, and that is something that should give us some confidence,” Whittingham said at a press conference. “We have had some rough finishes with them and we’ve also been able to come away with a victory. We just have to be able to finish the deal.”

The Utes lead the nation in both total defense (143.5 yards per game) and passing defense (62.0). They also are tied for fifth nationally in scoring defense (8.0 points per game).

“This defense is as good as I’ve seen and they’re always known for defense in terms of what they’re doing,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said at a press conference. “They’ve got some really good players that have played for them for a long time. They’re extremely aggressive. This is one of the best defenses in our league, for sure, if not the best.”

Huskies quarterback Jake Browning is off to a shaky start with three interceptions to go with 609 yards and three touchdown passes. The senior is 287 yards away from joining Cody Pickett (10,220 from 1999-2003) as the only Washington quarterbacks with 10,000 career passing yards.

The Huskies will attempt to keep Utah senior linebacker Chase Hansen out of the backfield. Hansen has 4.5 tackles for loss — including two sacks — in victories over Weber State and Northern Illinois.

The offense hasn’t been as crisp. The Utes were blanked in the first half last Saturday by Northern Illinois before posting a 17-6 victory.

“You play fast when you know what you’re doing. When you don’t know what you’re doing, you play hesitant,” said sophomore receiver Britain Covey, who has 15 receptions for 208 yards. “That’s the biggest thing with our offense right now. Sometimes we don’t play as fast because we’re not there 100 percent mentally. That’s what we’ve got to fix.”

Junior quarterback Tyler Huntley has passed for 565 yards and four touchdowns against one interception.

–Field Level Media

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