Utah Utes football: U. goes up against nation's 2nd-best rusher in Ray Graham

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 12 2011 6:50 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Statistically speaking, two of the nation's top running backs will be on the field Saturday in Pittsburgh.

Pitt's Ray Graham is second in the nation with 149.8 yards rushing per game. Utah's John White is third in the Pac-12 and 27th nationally with a 100-yard average.

The Utes' "Wolfman," though, isn't looking at it as an individual matchup in any way, shape or form.

"Nope. I don't even know who he is, honestly. I really never pay attention to other players and stuff," White said. "I just worry about my team, you know, and we're going to go out there and compete and try to win."

Pitt's defense is giving up 120.2 yards on the ground, while Utah's is allowing only 99.4 yards per outing.

REPLACING HENDERSON: With punt returner Charles Henderson on the shelf for the rest of the season with a knee injury, sophomore Griff McNabb moves up to the top spot. Luke Matthews will be the backup. Greg Bird, Quade Chappius and Chandler Johnson are competing for the next spot on the depth chart.

DIFFERENT AGAIN: This will be the second meeting between Utah and Pitt since the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. It'll also be the third different Panthers' head coach the Utes have faced in the series. The list includes Walt Harris, Dave Wannstedt and now Todd Graham.

"You face different schemes but it's more the personnel than anything else," Whittingham said. "Personnel is far from important than scheme."

KNOWS ABOUT NORM: Pitt's Graham had kind things to say about Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who spoke to the coach's staff at Allen High School in Texas in the mid-1990s. Chow was BYU's offensive coordinator at the time.

"I was very impressed with him. He is a very classy person. He is one of the smartest guys in the business," Graham said. "His concepts of the passing game are all over college football. He has been really a trendsetter."

SACKING THE PANTHERS: Pitt has given up a whopping 27 sacks over six games this season. Maine, yes Maine, recorded seven in a 35-29 setback on Sept. 10. Rutgers had six in last week's 34-10 win over Pitt.

"It can stem all the way from the offensive line to receivers not uncovering quick enough. I mean, there's a lot of reasons behind sacks," Whittingham said. "So I don't think you can just pinpoint it on just one facet."

Utah's defense has recorded nine sacks in five games, including two against every opponent except USC.

Dirk Facer is the Ute Insider on ESPN 700. He can be heard each week on "The Bill and Spence Show" and on the Utah football pregame show. Email: dirk@desnews.com. Twitter: @DirkFacer

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