STANFORD, Calif. — Switching gears. It’s something the Utah Utes look to do in more ways than one Saturday night at Stanford.
After an 0-2 start to Pac-12 play, the Utes are obviously seeking a reversal of fortune. Another loss could make it extremely difficult for them to win their first outright Pac-12 South crown.
“It’s one of those things where you find out what type of team you really are and what type of players you are, what type of people you are when faced with adversity,” sophomore receiver Britain Covey said of the situation following losses to Washington (21-7) and Washington State (28-24).
The latter came against a pass-oriented offense. Now the Utes shift to Stanford’s run-oriented scheme.
“It’s a complete 180,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “We’ve got a power-run team that we’re facing as opposed to a team that wasn’t really interested in running.”
The Cougars passed for 445 yards against the Utes last weekend in Pullman. They finished with zero yards rushing on 13 carries. Stanford does both — runs the ball and pass it — but could have Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Love if he’s able to play after injuring an ankle in a 38-17 loss at Notre Dame last Saturday.
Utah associate head coach Gary Andersen, who primarily works with the defensive line, said preparation for Stanford is the “polar opposite” of getting ready for Washington State.
Andersen added, however, that the Utes are handling it well despite the challenge of going from pass rushes to multiple tight-end formations and a physical front. It’s about quickly getting back to basics.
“These kids are excited,” he said. “They love football.”
Utah enters the game in need of several things. Topping the list is getting a win, something the Utes haven’t done since a 17-6 non-conference victory at Northern Illinois on Sept. 8. Life in the Pac-12 has proven to be a challenge. Utah is just 2-8 over its last 10 conference games.
“Every week you have to bring your ‘A’ game because every week it comes down to a play or two. Sometimes we are on the right side of that and sometimes we are not,” Whittingham said. “It speaks to the league’s balance. You have nine conference games and every week is a big challenge."
Putting points on the board has also proven to be a tall task this season. In three games since a season-opening 41-10 win over Weber State, Utah’s offense has scored just five touchdowns and two field goals. The Utes did, however, show signs of improvement against Washington State. They scored three TDs in the first half and wound up with 204 yards rushing.6 comments on this story
“I think we are starting to get our identity offensively and hone in on who we are there,” Whittingham said. “I think we still need to be more productive.”
EXTRA POINTS: In six meetings since 1989, the winner of the Utah-Stanford game has scored no more than 27 points ... The Cardinal have won 11 straight home games. The Utes, though, are 3-0 all time at Stanford Stadium ... Utah returns home next Friday against Arizona.
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Utah (2-2, 0-2) at No. 14 Stanford (4-1, 2-0)
- Stanford Stadium
- Saturday, 8:30 p.m. (MT)
- TV: ESPN
- Radio: ESPN 700AM