SALT LAKE CITY — Either they’re on the same wavelength, they took the same spelling test or their coach has used the word a lot in practice this week.
Whatever the case may be, a couple of Arizona football players used the word stout to describe the nature of Utah’s defensive makeup.
“We’ve watched a lot of film so far, and Utah’s got a very stout D-line,” Arizona center Josh McCauley told azdesertswarm.com. "Their run defense is very good, so it’s going to be a battle up front, so we’re getting ready for it.”
“They’re pretty stout on defense. They fly to the ball well, their D-line and linebackers are pretty good,” Arizona wide receiver Cedric Peterson added. “Their secondary is pretty good as well. It’s a really big game for us. We have to be on our A game, and I think we’re ready for the competition this Friday."
The Wildcats visit Rice-Eccles Stadium for a Friday night showdown with the Utes. Arizona, which lost to BYU earlier this season, is showing a lot of respect toward its upcoming Pac-12 opponent.
“They’re the No. 1 defense in the league statistically, No. 1 run defense in the league, No. 1 red zone in the league. So it’s the best defense in the league right now, and they’ve got a lot of experience, a lot of size and a lot of athleticism, and they put them all together,” Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said of the Utes. “They haven’t given up a bunch of big plays. They have limited people in their run game. Chase Hansen has been right behind Colin Schooler for No. 1 and No. 2 in the league in tackles for loss.”
Some might call it a stout defense — and athletic, to boot.
“For how big they are, their athleticism is pretty good,” McCauley said. “They got some big guys up front that can still move, which we haven’t seen a whole lot this year — guys being 330-plus (pounds). So that’s going to be a challenge, but we’re working for it.”
One Sports Illustrated writer called it “a bit odd” that the Wildcats are a two-touchdown underdog to “a mercurial Utah team.” For one thing, Arizona is 3-2 overall and 4-1 against the spread in Utah in the past five meetings.7 comments on this story
“Utah’s rushing defense ranks third in the nation, as the Utes are giving up only 2.0 yards per carry and 75.4 yards per game on the ground,” SI's Zachary Cohen wrote. “That will make things hard on Arizona, which could struggle to create short-yardage situations for star quarterback Khalil Tate. But the good news for Arizona is that the Utes won’t be able to plan against Tate’s ability to improvise.”
Utah does have running back Zack Moss going for it, he noted. He called Moss “a revelation” this season in light of his three 100-yard games.
Despite Moss and the stoutness of the Utes, Cohen picked Arizona to cover the 14-point spread.