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Utah's defensive line has earned much of the credit for the Utes' success this year, but lineman Star Lotulelei said the players aren't the only ones who should be praised.

Much of the difference in the line play has to do with the addition of coach Chad Kauha'aha'a, who left Utah State to join the Utes' staff when John Pease retired.

Pease, who coached the line for two years, had a long history of coaching in the NFL.

While his experience helped the Utes in many ways, Lotulelei said Kauha'aha'a has done a better job teaching the line fundamentals.

"Coach Pease was more of an NFL coach who told us to go out there and do what it takes to make the plays," Lotulelei said. "Coach Chad is hard on us about our technique. Telling us to go out and make the plays is fine, but you always need technique."

Whatever he is doing must be working since the defense leads the Pac-12 in several categories.

Derrick Shelby leads the group with 37 tackles and Lotulelei has 32, along with a pass breakup and forced fumble.

Tough to call

Oregon State coach Mike Riley, whose team beat Washington State 44-21 and lost to the Utes 27-8, said Saturday's matchup was an intriguing one to him after Washington State's 37-27 upset of Arizona State.

"It is a very compelling matchup after a big victory last week and the confidence Washington State must feel, but they have to handle a very good Utah front," he said. "Offensively, Norm (Chow) has adapted very, very well to what they do with their personnel offensively and they can really control a game as they did against us running the ball."

On a roll

The improvement of Utah's offensive line has pleased coach Kyle Whittingham the most, he said.

"It's one of the spots that has made the most progress," he said. "We have a new line coach this year with Tim Davis, so there is a learning curve there as well, but they've done a very good job."

Of note

The Utes have 500 tickets remaining for the Nov. 25 game against Colorado … The Utes are 6-0 when leading after three quarters … Utah's series with Washington State is tied at 5-5 … Mike Sanford, who served as Utah's offensive coordinator before moving on to UNLV in 2005, attended Wednesday's practice. Sanford maintains a home in Park City.