COACH SAYS: Coach Kyle Whittingham says stopping
the Beavers resurgent ground game is priority number one. "They have gotten
better each and every week. They have discovered their running back and how
effective he can be. Rodgers is like all great backs - when nothing is there
he will find a way to make yards."
INCOMING: DE Paul Kruger equaled an MWC
record with 4.0 sacks at Utah State. His four sacks are the most by any FBS
player thus far in 2008. Kruger ranks second in the country and leads the MWC
in tackles for loss average (2.30). Kruger is tied for 14th in the nation (second
in the MWC) in sacks per game (0.90). He has 11.5 TFL and 4.5 sacks total. The
preseason all conference pick also has three pass breakups and a forced fumble.
ON VERSUS: Utah is 5-2 all-time in games televised on VERSUS,
which includes this year’s win over Air Force.
ONE OF THE BEST: Senior kicker/punter Louie Sakoda
is one of the best kickers/punters in the nation. He was recently named
the MWC's Special Teams Player of the Week after connecting on three of three
field goals (33, 47, 38) and all of his extra points. Sakoda is now Utah's career
leader in career points (238) and career field goals (45). He is a perfect 8
of 8 from 47 yards in and his 83.3% career field goal percentage (45 of 54)
ranks first among all active kickers.
STINGY: The Utah defense ranks nationally in several defensive
categories - fourth in opponent first downs (62), fifth in total defense (231.4)
and rushing defense (60.2), and sixth in tackles for loss (8.60). The Utes have
limited four of their five opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground (Michigan-36,
UNLV-129, Utah State-27, Air Force-53, Weber State-56).
ONE OF THE KEYS: Coach Whittingham says being physical one
of the keys to Thursday's game. "Their front seven are really gelling together.
They have good movement at the line of scrimmage and they hit you right in the
mouth. We have to beat them to the punch and match their physicality. Between
the emergence of the tailback and the efficiency of the offensive line they
have gotten better every week."
MOVING ON UP: Despite missing a good chuck of his junior year
QB Brian Johnson currently ranks among the league’s Top
10 in six career statistical categories. The senior is second in pass completion
percentage (497-756, 65.7%), fourth in completions (497), sixth in passing yards
(6,010), sixth in total offense yards (6,729), seventh in pass attempts (756)
and ninth in total plays (1,058). He is 18-7 as a starter.
A TRIO: Three of Utah’s top five tacklers are linemen:
DE Koa Misi leads the team with 28 tackles, DE Paul
Kruger is second with 26 stops, and DT Greg Newman
is fifth (22). All three rank in the league’s top 10 this week in tackles
for loss (Kruger leads the league, Newman is tied for sixth and Misi is ninth).
AGAINST THE PAC: Since 2003, Utah is 5-2 against the Pac-10
(4-0 in Rice-Eccles Stadium), with wins over California (2003), No. 19 Oregon
(2003), Arizona (2004, 2005) and UCLA (2007). Losses were to UCLA (2006) and
Oregon State (2007). The Utes are 7-7 vs. Pac-10 teams since joining the MWC
and 50-89-3 all-time. The only Pac-10 team they have a winning record against
is Arizona while the only Pac-10 team they have never defeated is Washington.
Whittingham is 2-2 against the Pac-10 as Utah’s head coach.
STALWARTS ON THE LINE: Senior offensive guard Robert Conley (knee) is expected to return to the lineup this week. Conley
saw his string of consecutive games played stopped at 42 last week when he missed
the first game of his career. Junior all-conference candidate Zane Beadles
has started since his freshman year (the last two seasons at left tackle). He
has played in 30-of-31 games since his redshirt freshman season in 2006, starting
LOOK OUT FOR: Junior middle linebacker Mike Wright
has led the team in tackles in the last two games, recording a career-high
10 stops against Air Force and tying for the team lead with six against Weber
BCS BUSTERS: Utah joins Fresno State as the non-BCS teams
with the most wins against BCS schools since 2000 (14). Utah is 14-10 against
BCS teams since 2000 (not counting a 2001 win over South Florida, which was
not in the Big East at that time) and 9-3 since 2004.
A COUPLE OF GOOD ONES: Utah has two senior receivers with
1,000 career yards: Brent Casteel (1,309) and Bradon
Godfrey (1,134). Godfrey leads Utah and is tied for ninth in the MWC
in receptions per game (4.40). He is Utah’s leading receiver with 22 catches
for 250 yards (50.0 yards per game) to go with two touchdowns. Casteel is tied
for second on the team in receptions (18) and third in receiving yards (219).