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Keys to the game: Utah vs. Washington State

Keys to the game: Utah vs. Washington State



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Last week I wrote about how the Cal game could very well have been an elimination game. Utah passed that massive test and now the post season hopes have went from critical condition to serious condition.

The Utes are alive and kicking, and just like last year, got their first conference victory at home in a blackout game.

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The key for the Utes now is developing consistency game to game. Fans will see if that consistency begins this Saturday against Washington State.

Utah needs to do these three things to get out of Rice-Eccles Stadium with a win, and one step closer to .500.

1. Take the next offensive step.

Utah did put up 49 points against Cal, 21 of which were non-offensive. 28 offensive points is one of the best we've seen the Utah offense this season, however they were slow to get going. They didn't score offensively until the 2nd quarter. They actually punted on the first three offensive possessions of the game. Utah only had 344 yards of total offense in the game, most of which came after the 1st quarter. Now, Utah is not the three and out machine that they were earlier this season, there is a much better flow to the offense. To take that next step offensively, Utah needs to be productive in the 1st quarter. If they achieve that against the Cougars, that will take pressure off of the defense to defend that air raid offense of Mike Leach.

2. Make WSU drive the field.

When a team can't and won't rush the ball, and is a pass 1st, 2nd, and 3rd offense, the more throws the higher the likelihood of mistakes and turnovers. With a throwing team like this, Utah has to make them drive long fields - that means no turnovers and good special teams play. Utah's defense started to get in a bit of a grove against Cal. You saw the Blechen's, Reilly's, and Krugers play as hard and as hungry as they have all year. If they are given 80-yards to defend, and if they can keep them behind schedule on first and second down, there will be plays to be had.

3. The secondary needs to be ready.

Utah's defense will see 40 or 50 pass attempts in this game. Utah's secondary needs to be on point. If Ryan Lacy plays, he will perform, he is proven. The pressure will fall on Reggie Topps, Moe Lee, and the rest of the crew. They have to keep these receivers in front of them, especially Marquise Wilson. If they do allow plays, especially in the open field, they need to be sure on the tackle. In games like USC and UCLA, Utah was in position to make the play plenty of times, they just couldn't bring the receiver to the ground. Lastly, Brian Blechen and Eric Rowe need to be the deep ball erasers. They need to protect the rear ends for these corners, so if a deep ball goes up they need to be ready to make the play.

Utah is a better team than WSU. However, this is a scary match up because this is not a traditional offensive attack. It reminds me of Air Force week, just because it's not something this defensive unit is used to seeing. The thing about a throwing team also, they will never be out of a game, just because a couple big plays can happen and that could change the entire game. If Utah shows up Saturday and does their job, they should walk out of Rice-Eccles 4-5.

Shane Roberts is a producer/writer for the U Fan Cast on TheUFanCast.com, a Utah-centric podcast that gives a voice to the fan. Twitter: @Shane_U_FanCast

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