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Utah Utes football: Utes looking to get back on track in the running game

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 7:30 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Losing its starting quarterback isn't the only problem Utah's offense has heading into Saturday's big match-up with Arizona State.

The Utes' success — or struggles — might hinge even more on how well the other guys in the backfield respond after the Washington walloping.

Utah only cobbled together 17 rushing yards in Saturday's setback to the Huskies — and gained zero in the second half — so rediscovering a running game is a high priority in the important Pac-12 game against the Sun Devils.

And it isn't just Utah running backs John White and Harvey Langi who need to pick up their games.

"We couldn't get any movement on the line of scrimmage," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "That was the No. 1 issue is we didn't get any knock off of the front line."

The Utes' rushing attack has been hit-and-miss this season. White racked up huge yardage against BYU (174 yards) and Montana State (150 yards), but he was limited in both conference contests (90 yards total).

Though he's ranked third in the Pac-12 and 25th nationally with 103.8 yards per game, the 5-foot-8 junior has yet to put together back-to-back outings..

And Utah, which only averages 133 yards per game, has received little rushing production aside from White. Receiver Reggie Dunn is second in yards gained with 68 on two carries.

The Utes are hopeful Bingham High product Harvey Langi will increase his productivity. Whittingham credited the freshman for making "steady improvement," especially in providing pass protection.

That's important because Langi's improved blocking will lead to the coaching staff having more confidence in allowing him to stay on the field for more running opportunities. That could provide White with rest and give the Utes more offensive versatility.

Despite only getting one touch (for 1 yard) Saturday and gaining just 34 yards all season, the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder has passed senior Tauni Vakapuna on the depth chart.

"He's the No. 2 guy," Whittingham said of Langi, "so he'll continue to get reps throughout the course of the season."

INJURY UPDATE: Jordan Wynn's shoulder injury was huge, of course, but the Utes came out of Saturday's loss relatively healthy aside from the QB. On Monday, Whittingham said no other players were hurt in the game.

Utah is also looking forward to potentially getting back three key players by Saturday, including standout offensive tackle Tony Bergstrom (knee) and tight ends Kendrick Moeai (ankle) and Jake Murphy (knee).

The three might not practice until later this week — if at all — but the prospect of them playing is "looking fairly positive," Whittingham said.

That could give Utah's offense a much-needed shot in the arm.

"We're hoping we'll get all three of those guys back," he added. "That would help our cause if we were able to get them."

PITT START: Utah's game at Pittsburgh on Oct. 15 will have an early, 10 a.m.. MT kickoff. It was also announced that the Utes-Panthers showdown at Heinz Field will be televised by ESPNU.

HIGHER HELP?: Whittingham joked that his scouting team might need outside help to imitate Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler, who is a towering 6-foot-8 talent.

"I (might) go to Coach K and get some of this basketball guys to stand back there," Whittingham said. "But, no, we don't have a guy to emulate that."

Of course, if none of Larry Krystkowiak's players are available, the new U. basketball coach is 6-foot-9 himself.

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