The primary play-maker up front is Danny Shelton, their nose guard. Like Star Lotulelei for Utah, Shelton controls everything in the middle and allows the DE's to get upfield to make plays. Problem with that is UW's DE's have been largely ineffective all season. They only have 13 sacks, which is tied for deal last in the conference. Josh Shirley, who was at the top of the leading sack specialists last year, just hasn't been able to lock into his role within Wilcox's new schemes, but he's capable of ripping off a 3-4 sack game at any time. He's just been stymied, for whatever reason.
At the linebacker spot, John Timu is a captain and the soul of that group, but it's true freshman Shaquille Thompson that will turn on the style and make big plays for that unit. The defensive backs are the experienced core of Washington's defense, with Sean Parker and Desmond Trufant both captains. They have played really, really well this year. Marcus Peters, the corner opposite Trufant, has shown the ability to step up in crunch time, too. He's a talented youngster.
5. How do fans and UW players regard Utah as a football program and what does Washington need to do to beat Utah come Saturday?
I believe Washington fans have a healthy respect for Utah football, going back to when Urban Meyer put them on the national map. Of the final four games in UW's schedule starting with Cal, I also believe Washington fans felt the Utah game was the one game that could cause the Huskies some real problems in terms of tripping them up and not allowing them to finish with a five-game winning streak.
They respect Kyle Whittingham and who he is as a defensive-minded coach and the fact that his teams are teams that very rarely make crucial mistakes and beat themselves. If you were lucky enough to beat Utah, it's because you out-performed them and executed your game plan well in all three phases.
To win the game, Washington just has to play their brand of football — which lately has meant establish the run, be smart with the play-action passes, take advantage of the big play when it's there, bend-but-don't-break on defense, play smart, sound special teams, and most importantly — win the turnover battle. Capitalize on mistakes when they are handed to you, because traditionally Kyle Whittingham teams don't give you many opportunities to take the game away from them. When they do, you have to take advantage.
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