This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Just when Utah's run defense is feeling good about itself again, it faces its biggest test of the season so far on Saturday against Pitt's Ray Graham.
Graham, a 5-foot-9, 195-pound junior, is the second-leading rusher in the country, averaging 149.83 yards a game.
Utah's defense ranks 19th nationally against the run, giving up just 99.4 yards. Utah held ASU to 74 yards on the ground in Saturday's loss.
"He is an outstanding back," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "I remember looking at him last year when they had the Lewis kid, and we were looking at the next guy wondering why they weren't playing him. This guy is really good, and he'll be a challenge for us."
Dion Lewis, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, ran 25 times for 75 yards against the Utes last year, when Utah won 27-24 in overtime.
Graham missed the game with a knee sprain. He finished the year rushing 148 times for 922 yards and eight touchdowns.
So far the most successful back against the Utes has been Washington's Chris Polk, who rushed 29 times for 189 yards.
Whittingham said Graham is just as good.
"Every week we face a standout back, and this guy, statistically, is the best of them all. All the guys we have faced have been good, and this guy is darned good as well."
Receiver DeVonte Christopher is questionable for Saturday's game with an ankle injury and backup running back Tauni Vakapuna is out (ankle) for the game, as is linebacker Jacoby Hale (concussion).
Safety Keith McGill is doubtful with a shoulder injury and receiver/punt returner Charles Henderson is out for the season after suffering a season-ending knee injury Saturday.
Henderson, a freshman, finishes the year with nine punt returns for 112 yards and one reception for 13 yards.
"That is unfortunate because he was starting to do some good things," Whittingham said.
Sophomore receiver Griff McNabb will take over the punt-return duties.
"We'll have to look at alternatives as well," Whittingham said. "We already have some guys in the works besides Griff."
Rise and shine
Since Utah is on fall break, the Utes will practice in the mornings Tuesday and Wednesday, then leave on Thursday for Saturday's game at Pitt. Whittingham believes the early-morning practices and early flight will help the team adapt to the time change and early kickoff, set for 10 a.m. MDT.
"We're going to acclimate ourselves the best way we can," he said. "Fortunately we can do that this week. It's going to be wake up, have the pregame meal and kickoff in a big hurry."