Matt Gade, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — It remains to be seen if the Utah Utes will air it out in their Pac-12 opener against Oregon State.
After a nonconference loss to Eastern Washington and a win over Hawaii, the Beavers enter Saturday night’s game at Rice-Eccles Stadium ranked last in the Pac-12 in both passing defense (309 yards per game) and pass efficiency defense (167.3 rating). They aren’t much better in total defense (432 ypg) and scoring defense (31.5 ppg), either, ranking 11th overall.
“We’re not going to take anything for granted, but I feel like we’re licking our chops going into any game. Any game we’re going to try and be an effective offense and try to take over the game basically,” said Utah receiver Dres Anderson. “No matter what the defense does, we’re going to try to win it on offense.”
The Utes aim to do so, however, without being too one-dimensional. Following victories over Utah State and Weber State, the Utes have netted 592 yards passing and 486 on the ground. In last week’s 70-7 win over the Wildcats, they ran for 338 and threw for 290.
“We try to be balanced offensively with the run and the pass and I thought we were balanced last Saturday and so that’s not going to change,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who noted that Oregon State’s defense was better against Hawaii. “We’ve got to be able to run the ball effectively to have the offense where we want it to be. So I don’t think there’s going to be any more emphasis on the pass this week than in weeks past, but we’ll see what happens.”
Like Anderson, Utah quarterback Travis Wilson emphasized that the offense isn’t taking anything for granted when it comes to the Beavers and their ability to defend the pass. They gave up 448 throwing yards against EWU and just 170 to Hawaii seven days later.
“We definitely still want to improve on our passing game,” said Wilson, who completed 14 of 19 throws for 264 yards and three touchdowns in one half against Weber State. “I think we did a great job last week of completing a lot of balls and getting guys open, but it’s something we’ve just got to keep on progressing every week.”
Wilson, however, explained that it all begins on the ground.
“We definitely want to be balanced with the run and the pass,” he said. “We’ve got to establish the run game first and then hopefully open up the pass game, too.”
Wilson and Anderson have developed into quite a combination. Anderson is coming off a couple of career bests in the win over Weber State — his first career 100-yard receiving game (four catches for 103 yards) and a 57-yard touchdown reception.
“I’m going to try and do as much as I can for the team,” Anderson said. “Explosive plays are what they want out of me and that’s what I’m going to try to give.”
And thus far, things are working out well.
“I’m really excited for Dres,” Wilson said. “I think he’s an amazing wide receiver and he really finds a way to get open. He’s definitely a great target to go to.”
Anderson has mutual respect for Wilson.
“He has a big arm and is accurate and he can run,” Anderson said. “So that’s going to loosen the defense up.”
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