Q & A With Block U

Utah running back John White IV is the Utes' best weapon. If he runs for 100+ yards, he usually runs for well over 100 yards, and Utah always wins. But he's been thoroughly shut down in some games, and when that has happened, Utah always looses. Which will it be when Oregon St. visits Rice-Eccles stadium Saturday night? (AP photo by Keith Srakocic)

As we get ready for the first ever Pac-12 meeting between Oregon St. and Utah, we got together with Sean (fans up and down the coast know Sean as JazzyUte, easily THE Utes' most passionate follower, but also a good journalist who has his finger on the pulse of the Salt Lake City sports scene) over at BlockU.com to get some insight into how things age going for the Utes.

In looking at the stats from Utah's up and down season, a couple things jump out. For one thing, if John White IV runs for at least 100 yards, the Utes win, If he doesn't, they lose. And the numbers vary wildly; 3 games of 150+, 3 games under 60 yards (2 under 40!). Why the huge variance?

The huge variance is mostly due to Utah's lack of a passing attack. Jon Hays, the quarterback who's stepped in for the injured Jordan Wynn, has not proven to be a passing threat. Because of this, all defenses really have to do is stack the box and force the Utes to throw. Until he proves capable of doing that, it's hard to imagine John White IV will be able to power through a defensive line set up to really stop the run.
 
The surprising thing is that Pittsburgh, Utah's opponent two weeks ago, didn't really do this and White was able to get his groove on and, what do you know, the Utes won. Cal, though, dared Hays to pass and he couldn't do it, so no run game could ever be established and Utah lost, badly I might add. Oregon State will probably do the same thing, at least you'd think.

Another obvious one is turnovers. In every win, Utah has a +2 or better turnover margin. In all their losses except the USC game, the Utes have a -4 or worse margin. And it can reasonably be argued that the +2 turnover margin against the Trojans is why Utah almost won that game against what has turned out to be a pretty good team. Again, why the huge variance in the turnovers?

Who knows? I don't think anyone really has a definitive answer. If I had to explain, it probably, at least right now, comes back to Hays. He's thrown seven interceptions on the season and has only played in three and a half games. You're not going to win many contests when you're throwing three or more picks a game (in Utah's two losses with Hays as a starter, he's done just that).

The fact is, the Utes just don't have a very good quarterback and that has led to a lot of their problems.

The Pac-12 is and always has been the conference of QBs, and losing Jordan Wynn definitely hurt. Jon Hays has filled in better at times and not so well at others, but in fairness he wasn't considered my most to be a franchise qb at this level, and there apparently is no other option. Why did Utah get caught with so little depth at quarterback?

That's a question so many Utah fans have asked themselves. I guess we've just all agreed the coaches screwed the pooch on recruiting quarterback depth. This last recruiting class, the Utes signed absolutely zero quarterbacks and put all their eggs in the Jordan Wynn basket.

When they realized, during spring ball, there weren't any competent, or capable quarterbacks to back up Wynn this season, they panicked and picked up Hays, who only signed because his school, D-II Nebraska-Omaha, decided to cut their football program.

Utah has suffered some injuries, but so has everyone. However, there have been some very key ones, and that's made things tough for the Utes. Has Utah really suffered significantly more injuries than in recent years as a result of playing what is assumed to be a tougher schedule? Or is it just a matter of who has been injured (a couple of key players)?

I wouldn't say it's because of a tougher schedule. Wynn was injured twice last season (in the opener against Pitt and then mid-season against Iowa State) and one of our receivers was red shirted because of an injury sustained in camp. In fact, much of the OL injuries happened before the season and though there have been a significant number, I don't think it's dramatically higher than in year's past.

In '07, for example, as Oregon State fans should remember, we lost both our quarterback (Brian Johnson) and star running back (Matt Asiata) in the first game of the season.

It's just been a nasty year all around.

What's the best news at this point in the season for Utah? And the worst for opponents (as in what's most likely to produce a win for the Utes against the Beavers Saturday night)?

If the offense can sustain drives.

The Utah run defense has been pretty good. Can they be the unit that leads the Utes to that elusive first Pac-12 win? And a bowl game?

The defense won't be able to shut down many offenses if they're constantly on the field or forced into bad situations because of turnovers. Last week, the Utes played Cal pretty well until the offense began producing three and outs every drive. Add the turnovers and the defense wilted badly - but can you blame 'em?

Is the Utah fanbase still comfortable, or even upbeat, about the move to the Pac-12? (Especially given that the Utes are probably in for a rough basketball season as well.)

There is no doubt we're comfortable and happy to be here. Any Ute fan that tells you they'd rather return to the MWC is either joking or not a fan at all.

 

Thanks, Sean, for taking the time to give Beaver fans some insight into an old foe that's just become a new conference rival.

See you Saturday night in Salt Lake City!

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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