With Utah (5-4, 2-4 in Pac-12) one win away from bowl eligibility, the Utes will have a tough task as the team faces Washington State (8-2,5-2 in Pac-12), a team that's looking to stay on the hunt in the Pac-12 North. With the Cougars being a 1.5-point favorite and a lot riding on this game, here's what the media is saying about the Utes.
The last time Washington State and Utah faced each other, Connor Halliday was the Cougars’ starting quarterback. Yes, it’s been that long. The Spokesman-Review chronicles the last meeting between the two teams. The Utes were beating the Cougars in all three phases of the football game and led 24-7 at halftime. In the second half, Halliday and then-wide receiver Vince Mayle happened: both connected with each other with two touchdowns to get the Cougars back into the game. That included an 81-yard touchdown pass to give the Cougs a 28-27 win over the Utes.
The present and future
At 8-2, Wazzu is trailing behind its in-state rival, the Washington Huskies, in clinching the North division in the Pac-12. A win against the Utes can help Washington State's chances in winning the North Division three weeks from now when the Cougars have to face the ninth-ranked Huskies.
After the Utes were outscored 95-40 through a four-game slump in the month of October, they were able to start November on a positive note by shutting down UCLA 48-17 last Saturday.
Luke Falk returns to his home state
The Seattle Times' notebook talks about the Cougars' all-time leading passer Luke Falk coming back to Utah. While playing at Logan High School, he was not highly recruited by any Power 5 teams. He ended up walking on for Washington State where he caught the attention Mike Leach.
“It says that recruiting is not an exact science and that in Luke’s case, a lot of focus and determination can elevate your play, and with a good team around you, you can build yourself into some great things,” Leach told The Seattle Times. “This had more to do with persistence and hard work than straight-up natural talent. And a lot of the time, that’s what exists with great players.”
Falk was a backup quarterback behind Halliday the last time Wazzu and Utah faced each other in 2014. Three and a half years later as a starter, the former walk-on is now the Pac-12's career passing-leader. This will be Falk's first game against Utah as a starter.
Who are the Cougars looking out for
Utah put up 509 total yards in its victory over UCLA. The Seattle Times lists the three Utes players to look out for during Saturday’s game, and quarterback Tyler Huntley is first on the list. The sophomore threw four touchdowns last week, also throwing for 224 yards.
Huntley's favorite target, Darren Carrington II, also made the list. The Oregon transfer is having the best year of his career, leading the Utes with 830 yards, which is second in the Pac-12. Last week against the Bruins, despite having a good first half, he didn't play in the second half for undisclosed reasons. But the article confirmed that he's OK and will be ready to go Saturday.
On the defensive side, the article focuses on senior linebacker Sunia Tauteoli. He led the Utes with 12 tackles and 1.5 tackles-for-loss. He's second on the team with 58 tackles of the season. He also has one interception and one pass breakup for the year.