Utah offense looks to keep growing against San Jose State
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Quarterback Tyler Huntley and receiver Darren Carrington have flourished in Utah’s new spread offense, but the scheme has room for improvement before Pac-12 play begins at Arizona on Sept. 22.
The Utes will have a chance to tinker against San Jose State, which ranks 114th in scoring defense in the nation.
“We have to come out with a stronger swag and know that we’re unguardable,” Carrington said. “We’re still kind of thinking out there. We’ve just got to come out and know in our minds that we’re unstoppable.”
Huntley has been versatile for the Utes, throwing for 527 yards with a 73.5 completion percentage and leading the team with 159 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. He ranks No. 14 in the nation in total offense with 343.0 yards per game.
Carrington has lived up to the hype after transferring from Oregon, tying for No. 6 in the country with 128 receiving yards per game and trying for No. 11 with 17 receptions.
Utah will need more balance down the stretch. Carrington has 10 more catches than anyone else on the roster and Huntley’s 37 rushes are a team high. Coach Kyle Whittingham said they were a bit heavy with the Huntley runs last week.
“We haven’t played to our potential yet,” Utah receivers coach Guy Holliday said. “Our focus is to show who we really are and not what we’re building to be.”
The Spartans haven’t had much success defensively, giving up 56 points to Texas and 42 to USF. They have allowed 305.67 rushing yards per game, ranking 123rd in FBS. Linebacker Frank Ginda leads the nation with 42 tackles, but the defense has been on the field a ton. The San Jose State defense had played more snaps than any other FBS team at the end of last weekend.
The program hasn’t had a non-conference, regular-season road win since 2012.
“Our struggles stopping the run would have more to do with the personnel we faced in weeks one and three than the scheme,” San Jose State coach Brent Brennan said. “Our defense was tremendous against Cal Poly. ... We’ve got to get guys on the ground.
“When the damn broke Saturday it was a combination of our ineffectiveness offensively and our inconsistency tackling. I think that has more to do with it than us not being good.”
Other things to watch when Utah hosts San Jose State:
CHASING CHASE: The availability of Utah starting safety Chase Hansen is unknown. The Utes’ leading tackler acknowledged he’s “a little banged up” this week after missing all of fall camp with an undisclosed injury. He has played both games, but was not present during the media observation period at the end of Tuesday’s practice. Whittingham declined to comment on Hansen’s status before adding, “We’ll see what happens.”
QB SHUFFLE: The Spartans have used three quarterbacks in its first three games. Sophomore Josh Love started the first two games before freshman Montel Aaron started Game 3 against Texas. Sophomore Sam Allen played in the fourth quarters the last two weeks. Love has completed just 48.9 percent of his passes with three interceptions and two touchdowns. Aaron has thrown for 373 yards, four touchdowns, one interception with a 56.6 completion percentage.
PUNTER SHOWDOWN: Utah’s Mitch Wishnowsky is the reigning Ray Guy Award winner given to the nation’s best punter. He currently ranks third in the country in net punting (47.83 yards). San Jose State’s Michael Carrizosa was a Ray Guy Award finalist in 2016 and he ranks No. 22 in the nation in net punting (43.2 yards).
NO-FLY ZONE: Whittingham has raved about his defensive secondary and the unit has proven to be opportunistic early in the season. The Utes have four interceptions in two games, including three by the secondary, to tie for No. 6 in the nation. Cornerbacks Julian Blackmon and Casey Hughes and nickelback Boobie Hobbs have played well as first-year starters. Junior college transfer Corrion Ballard has immediately stepped in as a starter and star recruit Jaylon Johnson has played heavy minutes.
PENALTY WATCH: Utah’s 22 penalties in two games are tied for the fifth-most in the nation. The 232 penalty yards are the fourth-most in the country.