That is what we are known for, is putting pressure on the quarterback. We've done a very average, at best, job of that so far this year. —Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — “Sack Lake City” is experiencing a serious drought. Through nine games, the Utah Utes ranked 88th in the nation with just 15 sacks. That’s well off the pace of every previous season they’ve had since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
“It has been very different. For example, I think Lowell Lotulelei and Filipo Mokofisi had 10 sacks between them last year, and we have one between them at this point. Kylie Fitts had, I think, 10 or 12 sacks, I think he has one or two this year,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “It has just been slowed way down. I can't put a finger on it. We are bringing pressure about the same percentage that we were last year and in years past.”
Whittingham added that the Utes miss defensive end Hunter Dimick, noting he was a big factor the last several years. Dimick graduated as the program’s career sacks leader (29.5). He had 14.5 last season, including a school-record five against Arizona State.
“But no excuses; we just have to pick it up. The defensive line knows that,” Whittingham said. “That is what we are known for, is putting pressure on the quarterback. We've done a very average, at best, job of that so far this year.”
Eleven Utes have recorded sacks this season. Fitts leads the pack with three, while Bradlee Anae and Cody Barton have two apiece. Chase Hansen, Chris Hart, Casey Hughes, Kavika Luafatasaga, John Penisini, Caleb Repp, Sunia Tauteoli and Mokofisi have the others.
Utah finished with 43 sacks last season, up from 37 in 2015. The Utes got to the quarterback 46 times in 2014 and tallied 39, 29 and 32 in their first three Pac-12 campaigns.
STILL CONFIDENT: Senior nickel back Boobie Hobbs acknowledged that the Utes are still waiting to have their best game as a defense. They enter the final three games of the regular season (against Washington State, Washington and Colorado) ranked third in the Pac-12 in total defense (345.8 ypg) and fourth in scoring defense (23.1 ppg),
“In my opinion, I feel like we have athletes that can get the job done just as well as last year,” Hobb said. “We’ve just got to put the pieces together — whether that’s buying into the program a little more or spending a little more time in the film room, things of that nature, just to get back to where we left off.”
EXTRA POINTS: Utah has lost three straight games to ranked opponents and is just 2-6 against top 25 teams since knocking off No. 20 USC in 2014. The Utes are expecting their 50th consecutive sellout at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The streak began with the 2010 season opener. Kicker Matt Gay is on four midseason All-America first teams (AP, Athlon, ESPN and The Sporting News). Punter Mitch Wishnowsky made two (Athlon, The All-American).