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BYU, Utah Utes football: Cougars, Utes bring struggling offenses to the table

Published: Friday, Sept. 16 2011 8:30 p.m. MDT

PROVO — Today's BYU-Utah game appears to be shaping up to be a defensive battle.

Maybe along the lines of that 3-0 Ute victory in Provo in 2003, when both teams' offenses schlepped along in snowy, freezing conditions.

There's no doubt both teams have struggled offensively this season. The Cougars are averaging 15 points per game while Utah is averaging 20.5 points per contest. Meanwhile, both defenses have been solid.

That aside, when it comes to the Rivalry, anything can happen.

"I'm sure it could be any type of game," said BYU safety Travis Uale. "I know our offense will work hard and be able to execute the plays that coach (Brandon) Doman calls. I'm sure both sides of the ball will be ready to play. It's hard to determine what type of game it will be."

When the question was posed to linebacker Jameson Frazier — will this contest be decided by the defense? — he shrugged.

"Who knows? Who knows?" he said. "We'll see what happens on Saturday."

BYU running back Bryan Kariya said the Utes always have a strong defense.

"They have a lot of great players, they're well-coached and they execute well. There aren't a lot of things that you can exploit," he said. "In games like these, it takes almost a marathon-type mindset to work at it. You bust big plays here and there once in a while, but for the most part, you have to be patient and realize you may go three or four plays getting two or three yards on the runs, but you have to stick with it. Eventually, things kind of open up and you find that big play."

HADLEY STEPPING UP: Linebacker Brandon Ogletree was sidelined last week at Texas due to a concussion suffered in the Ole Miss game. In his place, sophomore Spencer Hadley led the team in tackles, with 12.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall was impressed with Hadley's performance. "Spencer played really well and earned a lot of trust," he said.

While Ogletree is expected to play today against Utah, Hadley is expected to see considerable playing time. Mendenhall said Hadley could rotate in at both inside linebacker positions.

OFFENSIVE WEAPONS: Utah's offense is still finding its identity, but the Cougars are concerned about the talent the Utes have at running back and wide receiver.

John White is a tough running back to bring down, Mendenhall said. "I was impressed in the USC game. He ran hard, he's quick, and he can break tackles. He's not big but he's fairly elusive and he's more physical than you'd think for a player that size."

Meanwhile, wide receiver DeVonte Christopher caught 11 passes for 136 yards in last week's game against the Trojans.

"I think they have a nice receiving corps," Mendenhall said. "(Christopher) is really a good receiver and they have capable receivers elsewhere, too. That's just part of what they do."

HOME SWEET HOME: The Cougars haven't lost to Utah at home since Mendenhall's first season, in 2005. BYU has posted a 30-6 record in six seasons under Mendenhall at Edwards Stadium. The Cougars were 5-1 at home last season and they are riding a four-game home winning streak.

BLUE VS. RED: Both BYU and Utah will wear home jerseys for today's game at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

As part of the celebration of the fifth year of the Deseret First Duel, the two schools will wear home uniforms every time they compete against each other throughout the 2011-12 season.

email: jeffc@desnews.com

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