DEFENSE: Things haven't gone as expected. Although senior defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is well on his way to All-America honors, Utah's defense has been surprisingly generous at times. Opponents have converted on 34 third-down situations. The Utes, though, do lead the nation with 13 forced fumbles.
"I still think we can play better," defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake said. "If you asked me last year, I probably would have said the same thing, too, and the year before that and the year before that."
The bottom line, he continued, is the defense is a lot better than how it played over the first six games of the season.
"I think our guys are playing with extreme effort and I love the way that they take the field. We've just got to play smarter and make more plays," Sitake said. "I'm really disappointed that we just haven't made enough sacks, we haven't made enough impact plays and we haven't created enough turnovers."
Utah has recorded 13 sacks, thus far, and only two interceptions.
"We need to see that improve the second half of the season," Sitake said. "In order for us to be successful as a team we really feel like as a defense we have to make more plays. It's not really that far out of our realm, rather just our guys doing their job and really taking advantage of the opportunities that come their way."
Sitake expects things to improve with a consistent line-up on the field. Junior safety Brian Blechen missed the first three games of the season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Senior cornerback Reggie Topps was held out of the season opener. A foot injury has slowed junior defensive end Joe Kruger, keeping him out of the loss to ASU. Sorting out a deep linebacker corps has also taken a toll on the defense, as has facing so many spread attacks early on.
"We've had to lean on our depth," Sitake said before noting that his highs and lows involve victories. The high being Utah's last win and low being the current losing skid.
"Having to deal with defeat is not good, especially when you know you're better than what you've been showing," Sitake said. "As a team, I know that's how we feel. As a defense, that's definitely how we feel right now."
Utes on the air
Utah (2-4, 0-3)
at Oregon State (5-0, 3-0)
Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Oregon
TV: ESPN2 Radio: 700AMMidway marks
Where Utah football ranks nationally after six games.
Rushing: 112th (100 ypg)
Passing: 90th (202.67 ypg)
Pass efficiency: 62nd (132.70 rating)
Total offense: 114th (302.67 ypg)
Scoring offense: 97th (22.33 ppg)
Rushing: 34th (124.17 ypg)
Passing: 62nd (226.50 ypg)
Pass efficiency: 99th (132.70 rating)
Total defense: 35th (350.67 ypg)
Scoring defense: 49th (24 ppg)Midway mark
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