First Look: Hoping to bounce back, Washington State heads to Salt Lake


What is that? Washington State (1-2, 0-1 Pac-12) will travel to Salt Lake City for the third consecutive year to play their first road game of this season, a conference game against Utah (1- 2, 0 -0). It will be the return of the Utes.

Where is it? Rice-Eccles Stadium, just east of downtown Salt Lake City.

When is it? Kick-off is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. PDT on Saturday.

Where can I watch it? Pac-12 Network will broadcast, as will the Pac-12 Now application.

Who is favored? The Utes opened as favorites with 14 points.

How did they behave last week? The WSU suffered a stunning meltdown, losing a 14-point lead in the second quarter and relinquishing an unanswered 45 points to visiting Southern Cal in a 45-14 loss. Utah lost to San Diego State in a 33-31 triple-overtime thriller. The Utes rebounded from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit in San Diego and sent the game into overtime, scoring a touchdown with 16 seconds left. The teams traded points in the first extra period and both missed field goals in the second. In triple overtime – which now includes a two-point tryout – SDSU converted to a Philly Special and Utah couldn’t complete an open passing game.

Why WSU will win: The Utes might be a bit exhausted after losing emotional games in the straight weeks. Two Saturdays ago, Utah abandoned a decision to BYU for the first time in 12 years. Last weekend, San Diego State crushed the Utes in triple overtime. It’s not like the Cougars are coming in with some momentum on their side, but it could be a good opportunity to jump on Utah. The Utes’ rushed defense is having an unusually porous start to the year, allowing 161.7 yards per game (ninth in the Pac-12). WSU is in the middle of the league in passing and running, but when their offense is at their best the two phases alternate unpredictably with Laura’s quarterback Jayden at the helm. Cougar running back Max Borghi has enjoyed success throughout his career against the Utes. He racked up 256 yards of scrimmage in three games.

Why Utah will win: Utah probably has better defense than WSU does offensive, especially if the Cougars don’t start from Laura at quarterback. The sophomore suffered a leg injury against USC, and his status for Saturday is uncertain. Utah ranks ninth nationally in passing defense, allowing just 135.3 yards per game. The Utes aren’t announcing who they’ll trot at the quarterback, but it looks like it will be the mobile transfer from Texas Cam Rising, who came in relief and nearly prompted Utah to a win from behind with a quick tempo. style. His No.1 target, junior speedster Britain Covey, illuminated the Cougars for 134 yards and a six-reception scorecard last year. The Utes dismiss nine of the 11 defense starters who shut out WSU in the second half of the 2020 game. Utah generally has one of the best defenses in the Pac-12. They have one of the best linebacking duos in the country this year with Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell. “They’re seen, I guess, as a defensive-minded team, but they’re not averse to being explosive and scoring points,” Rolovich said. Utah also brings back the five offensive linemen who led the way in 223 rushing yards and four touchdowns last year against the Cougs. The Utes are averaging 5.2 yards per carry this year. Utah has three receivers with over 100 yards each, and each is over 6 feet 2 inches tall. WSU has had issues with longer pass catchers this year. In total, the Utes bring back 19 of the 22 starters. WSU has been blown away in consecutive years in Salt Lake City. Visitors have already had a troubling start to the season.

What happened the last time? WSU and Utah are 9-9 in the all-time series and 4-4 since the Utes joined the Pac-12 in 2011. As is their loss to USC on the weekend. Last, the Cougars collapsed in their 2020 final in Salt. Lake, conceding 38 unanswered points in the second half and losing 45-28. WSU was leading 28-7 midway through the third quarter, but the Cougs made four late turnovers and the Utes’ offense came to life.

Things to know

1. The Utes are dedicating their 2021 season to Ty Jordan, who died in December of an accidental shootout. The Texas running back was named Pac-12 Conference Newcomer of the Year a day before his death. As a freshman in 2020, Jordan has emerged as an aspiring FBS star. He ran for 597 yards and six touchdowns on 83 carries (averaging 7.2 yards per attempt) – adding 126 receiving yards – in five games. Each utes player wears a helmet sticker with the letters “LLTJ” – Long live Ty Jordan.

2. In Coach Kyle Whittingham’s 16 full seasons at the helm of Utah, the Utes have only recorded losing campaigns twice – they went 5-7 in 2012 and 2013. Whittingham is the third coach longest serving member of the FBS, behind Kirk Ferentz of Iowa (23rd grade) and Gary Patterson of Texas Christian (22nd grade). Whittingham was Utes assistant from 1994-2004. He coached in Utah when the program was in the Western Athletic Conference (1994-98), Mountain West (1999-2010) and Pac-12 (2011-present). Since the Whittingham Utes joined the Pac-12, they have compiled a 76-46 (45-41 league) record and are 5-2 in bowl games. The Whittingham Utes are 11-3 in bowl games overall. “He did a really good job with this program during the transition to the Pac-12,” Rolovich said. “He has a reputation for being physical, tough, but they also have explosive playmakers on offense.”

3. A few utes gamers have connections with the Palouse. First-year linebacker Lolani Langi signed up for the WSU this spring and attended camp before entering the transfer portal and landing with Utah. Linebacker Andrew Mata’afa is cousin of great Cougar Hercules Mata’afa. Jonah Elliss, another first-year linebacker from Utah, played his practice ball in high school in Moscow and was considered HS’s top rookie in Idaho, according to His father, Luther Elliss – the Idaho defensive line coach – was an All-American Utes defensive tackle in the 1990s before a 10-year NFL career. Four Cougars hail from Utah: quarterback Cammon Cooper, forward Lawrence Falatea and reserve goaltenders Rodrick Tialavea and Christian Hilborn. All are from the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. WSU strength and conditioning coach Junior Salt started guard for Utah from 2013-2014.

4. This will be the sixth WSU / Utah clash in the past seven years to take place in Salt Lake City. The Cougs’ last victory in Utah dates back to 2017, when Hercules Mata’afa spearheaded a defensive gem in a 33-25 victory.


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