Utah cornerbacks coach Aaron Alford said Saturday’s game between the Utes and the Rams (3:30 p.m., The Mtn.) will be a “fun one but a tough one.”
Alford should know. He played as a defensive back for the Rams from 1992-1997.
Now, Alford is helping his new team prepare to beat his alma mater.
“With coach Lubick, one thing you always get is a physical game,” Alford said. “This isn’t a 1-6 team, they’ve just had some things not go their way.”
After losing three of their first four games, the Utes have won their last four, improving to 5-3 overall and 2-2 in conference play.
One reason for the turnaround is their pass defense, which ranks first in league-play allowing just 135 yards per game.
In fact, through four Mountain West Conference games, Utah has allowed only one touchdown reception, that to UNLV on Sept. 22.
The Utes rely on an athletic secondary led by sophomore Sean Smith (4 interceptions, 28 tackles) and junior Brice McCain (1 interception, 18 tackles).
McCain, the fastest player on Utah’s squad, is also the team’s top kick returner, with 18 returns for 419 yards.
That speed will get tested this week against what Alford called one of the “most dangerous” passing games in the league.
“The thing about (CSU’s receivers) is they are very elusive,” Alford said. “They do a great job in space. We play a lot of man, so we’ll have to be patient or they’ll make a play.”
Two of the playmakers for the Rams this season have been twin brothers Damon and Dion Morton.
Alford said he sees an experience advantage in senior Damon, who leads the Rams with five receiving touchdowns this year. But aside from that, Alford said the Mortons are very similar threats.
“As far as quickness, I can’t really see any difference,” he said. “I don’t want to start a twin battle and say one is faster than the other. I’d say they’re equal.”
Alford said McCain, Smith and the rest of the Utah secondary must be prepared for potential big plays, especially with a strong arm in quarterback Caleb Hanie.
“Hanie’s probably one of the best deep-ball throwers in the conference,” Alford said. “You show (the players) as much tape as you can, but after that you just have to be an athlete. Otherwise they’re going to beat you.”
Sports writer Jeff Dillon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hometown: Pasadena, Calif.
Major: Mass Communication
By the Numbers:
4 – Interceptions this season, most for the Utes
4.5 – Seconds it takes him to run the 40-yard dash
53.1 – Utah opponents’ pass completion percentage this season, best in the MWC