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There's no great secret to defending Mike Leach's air raid offense.
Washington State is going to go four-wide most downs against the Utes. They're going to throw the ball constantly. Utah has to stop them.
"They look for the weakness in your defense and try to exploit that, so we've got to be solid across the board on all four guys," said head coach Kyle Whittingham after Tuesday's practice. "They've got four or five guys that have a bunch of catches and they'll go to the guy that's got the best matchup."
The Cougars average 497 yards through the air. Senior quarterback Connor Halliday hung 488 on the Utes in last year's hope-deflating 49-37 Wazzu victory in Pullman, and Utah well knows that there is no Cougar you can point at and say, "If we only stop him, we'll be OK."
Last year, Leach's attack featured three receivers with more than 600 yards, six with more than 400, and eight with more than 300.
This year is the same story. Isiah Myers leads the team with 451 yards, but Vince Mayle (320), Dom Williams (316) and River Cracraft (278) are all averaging 70 or more yards per game. Three other guys Rickey Galvin, Jamal Morrow and Robert Lewis have more than 120 total.
But senior Eric Rowe said Tuesday that it's not unnerving. It's exciting.
"Just because it's more opportunities to show the whole Pac-12 that as a defense and from the secondary standpoint that we can play with them," he said. "... If you let up one time, they'll just throw it all over you. Oregon had a tough time, and we don't want to be in that position."
And Rowe, Justin Thomas, Dominique Hatfield and Davion Orphey may be on their own little islands, but they aren't alone. Ends Nate Orchard, Hunter Dimick and Jason Fanaika will be trying to make Halliday pay for any uncharacteristic hesitation, and the Utes feel linebackers Jared Norris and Gionni Paul you can forget about seeing much 4-3 are capable coverers.
"It's a collective effort," Rowe said. "We need a rush, we need pressure, we need coverage. Even from offense, can't have any turnovers, we have to make turnovers. There's not one biggest challenge against an air raid team."
Rare runs • No doubt about it, said Whittingham on Monday, Utah deviates from its usual defensive plan of attack against Washington State.
Stopping the run just isn't as important.
But it's still important, he said Tuesday.
"You can't just go to sleep on them completely, because last year they popped two or three runs on us when we did that," he said of a team that ranks 123rd in rushing yards per game, with 46. "They're definitely going to utilize them as receivers out of the backfield, but if you don't have your bases covered in the run game, they'll pester you with it just enough to do some damage."
The Cougars rushed for 103 yards on 18 carries in 2013, including a 50-yard dash from Marcus Mason. Wazzu backs have carried just under 15 times a game this season, reaching the end zone just once.
Stott quits team • Logan Stott was a walk-on with some pretty impressive credentials, having been rated as a four-star recruit out of Pine View and snagging a scholarship with Arizona.
For whatever reason, it wasn't meant to be for the 6-foot-3 guard.
"He hung it up," Whittingham said. "He decided that he'd just be a student and move on with his life. That was quite a while ago."
It can't have been too long, though, because Stott was listed in the participation report against Idaho State. An attempt to reach his father, Dale Stott, was not successful Tuesday.
Watching Wilson's back • How few mistakes has junior quarterback Travis Wilson made? Well, he's third in the nation in passing efficiency (195.8). But the Cougars were rude hosts to the guy in first place.
Washington State is 87th in total defense and allows 420 yards per game, but they sacked Oregon's Marcus Mariota seven times last Saturday. That was a big reason the 24-point underdogs had the nation's No. 2 team on the verge of overtime. Last year, the Cougars sacked then-Utah starter Adam Schulz six times.
"Washington State's front got after Oregon's quarterback, and I know we lost to them last year, so we've got to focus on protecting the quarterback," said sophomore right tackle J.J. Dielman on Monday.
Back on schedule • Utah opened with a short week for Idaho State's Thursday night contest, then spaced out practice ahead of Fresno State, and then again shortened the schedule to fly to Ann Arbor early for a walk-through at the Big House.
Finally, they're in a normal game week.
Whittingham said Tuesday practices are usually "tough."
"All things considered, for the first real true in-season week, so far so good," he said.
Washington Stateat Utah
O Saturday, 6 p.m.
TV • Pac-12