The No. 14 Utah Utes have been in the national spotlight since their opening week victory at Michigan on Aug. 30, and since then they have defeated every opponent by an average of 21 points. On Saturday, Utah (7-0, 3-0 MWC) hosts CSU (3-3, 1-1 MWC) with hopes of keeping their BCS dream alive.
The Rams are coming off a heartbreaking 13-7 loss at the hands of Texas Christian last Saturday, a game in which two dropped CSU touchdowns in the end zone could have changed the final outcome. One of those drops was by junior wide receiver Rashaun Greer, who says he’s trying to put last week behind him. According to the Las Vegas native, he sees a lot of opportunity to exploit the Ute defense come Saturday afternoon.
“With that defense, I can see a lot of zero coverage — they like to press,” Greer said. “So that gives us a lot of opportunities to make big plays.”
Against TCU last weekend, CSU was held to a season-low 199 yards of total offense. Despite Utah’s defense not being ranked as the best in the nation like the Horned Frogs, CSU head coach Steve Fairchild said the Utes may be just as good in the defensive department.
“I’m going to say the (defense) this week is right there, both from a production standpoint and a talent standpoint, every bit what TCU is,” Fairchild said.
While Fairchild is giving respect to the Utah defense, he seems more concerned with the Ute offense, saying they pose a tougher challenge than what CSU faced offensively last week.
Leading the offensive threat for Utah is senior quarterback Brian Johnson, who has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 1,440 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions this season.
CSU sophomore linebacker Ricky Brewer says the key to stopping a spread offense like Utah is to make them throw the football.
“Spread offense, athletic quarterback, the biggest key is to make them a one-dimensional team,” said Brewer, who is currently fourth on the team in tackles with 35. “If we can shut down their run game, we can force them to pass. And their quarterback is capable of passing the ball, but we would prefer for them to throw the ball than run any day.”
Brewer added that Johnson’s play is similar to both Houston’s Case Keenum and UNLV’s Omar Clayton; athletic.
Fairchild said the Rams are going to try to get back to establishing the run game. Last Saturday, Utah gave up 184 yards on the ground to Wyoming. Ute head coach Kyle Whittingham says he has much respect for the CSU offense.
“That Sperry kid, the tight end, he’s a weapon for them,” Whittingham said in his weekly teleconference. “Their running back runs hard; he’s one of the better backs in the conference, Gartrell Johnson. Also, their receivers do a nice job; they have some good things going on with their receivers.”
Kickoff is set for noon and will be televised on The Mtn. Be sure to check out CollegianSports.com during the game for a live blog and analysis.
Football beat writer Matt L. Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.