AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Two words define seventh-ranked Utah's approach to Saturday's game at Air Force: assignment football.
"When your defense is on the field you've got to play assignment football. It's 1/11th defense. That's what we call it," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "Everybody does their job — take care of their responsibility, take care of their assignment and be able to match or exceed their discipline."
Cornerback Lamar Chapman notes that everyone has a job to do.
Nothing more, nothing less.
"Definitely assignment football," Chapman said. "They have a lot of tough guys and we've just got to be disciplined and do our jobs, We don't need to worry about the next man's job. We just need to do our job."
Speaking of jobs, Chapman is doing as well as anybody these days. The senior enters the Air Force game as Utah's leader in tackles-for-loss (9.5) and sacks (5.5). He credits the coaching staff for putting him in good positions.
"They are dialing up my plays and calling them," Chapman said of his increased opportunities.
At 5-foot-8, he's standing tall in a Utah defense that ranks high nationally.
"I'm just trying to make enough plays to where my size doesn't enter the conversation anymore," Chapman said of how his lack of height is always noted in television broadcasts.
Chapman wants to be known as a playmaker.
"I'm trying to make an opportunity for myself next year to play at the next level," he said.
Until then, however, Chapman is having fun playing on a Utah defense that has the benefit of depth, talent and teamwork.
"There's no selfish guys," he said.
It's a good trait to have against Air Force's triple-option attack. Utah's 1/11th approach means every defender has a specific duty to perform on each play.
"Do your job," said defensive end Christian Cox. "Stay with your assignment."
Despite the specific approach, Utah hasn't exactly pulled away from Air Force in recent years. The Utes have won six of the past seven meetings (including the last two), but 12 of the last 13 games have been decided by 10 points or less.
Utah won last year's game in Salt Lake City in overtime, 23-16.
"It's been back and forth. Last year was a great example of that, playing in overtime. Most every year it goes down to the wire," Whittingham said. "A lot of that is attributed to the toughness of an Air Force team that never quits, ever. They always hang in there and give the full 60. For whatever reason, it seems like every game is very close and it goes right down to the wire."
As such, he's expecting nothing different this time around.
"It will be a typical Air Force-Utah matchup," Whittingham said.