Utah hurting coming into Oregon State game
CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — Injuries have begun to mount for No. 21 Utah — so much so that coach Kyle Whittingham was rightfully dramatic about the situation this week.
“This is the worst I can remember, and I’ve been here a lot of years,” he said.
The Utes (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) travel to Corvallis for Saturday’s game against Oregon State (2-3, 1-1) with a depleted roster, especially at running back. Utah lost sophomore Armand Shyne for the season during a 36-23 victory over Arizona last Saturday.
Junior Jordan Howard made his debut at running back following Shyne’s injury. Whittingham didn’t specify the injury, but Howard cannot play this week against Oregon State. Junior Troy McCormick and freshman Zack Moss are also out.
It is so bad that Joe Williams, who started in the opener but retired following Utah’s second game because of injuries, rejoined the team in practice this week. It is uncertain if he’ll play against the Beavers.
Previously, Utah lost center J.J. Dielman for the season with a lower leg injury, and last week against Arizona backup Lo Falemaka was also unable to play. Defensive end Kylie Fitts and tight end Siale Fakailoatonga have also gone down with injuries.
“It’s been a little bit of a mystery this year as far as the injuries,” Whittingham said. “But you just deal with it and move on. We’ll figure it out.”
While the Utes are hurting, the Beavers have been boosted by last weekend’s 47-44 overtime victory over California. It was Gary Andersen’s first victory over a Pac-12 opponent since he became coach. Oregon State did not win in conference last season.
“Success breeds confidence,” Andersen said. “There’s absolutely no doubt about it and it breaks down barriers. As youthful as we are, it gives them confidence, but it doesn’t change our approach at all. Win or lose this week or the next week, we’re going to do what we do. Our plan is set in stone and it won’t change.”
Other things at play on Saturday when the Utes visit Oregon State:
WILL HE OR WON’T HE? Last week against Cal, the Beavers had 474 yards on the ground, including 221 yards and three touchdowns from Ryan Nall. But Nall’s status for the Utah game is uncertain. Earlier this week, Nall was seen wearing a boot and he remains a game-day decision. Oregon State’s rushing attack will be up against a Utah defense that is holding opponents to an average of 119 rushing yards a game, ranked No. 24 in the nation.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: At 2-1 in the conference, Utah is tied for the Pac-12 South lead with Arizona State and Colorado. While it had appeared that the Utes could count on the Oregon State game as an easy W, the Beavers’ win against Cal should throw some doubt in their minds. Utah, which needs just one more victory to become bowl eligible, has a two-game winning streak against Oregon State, including last year’s 27-12 victory.
TIES THAT BIND: Andersen, a Utah native, played at center for the Utes. He first worked with Whittingham in 1993 when both were on the defensive staff at Idaho State, and the close friends crossed paths on the staff at Utah a couple of different times. Andersen was defensive coordinator for the Utes’ Whittingham for four seasons before moving on to become head coach at Utah State in 2009.
Whittingham called Andersen last weekend to congratulate him on the victory against Cal. But Andersen joked this week that it was probably the last he’d hear from Whittingham until after the game.
“I might shoot a little text to him and he probably won’t answer it,” Andersen said.
WHO’LL STOP THE RAIN: The forecast for Saturday is not just bad, it’s bordering on scary. Strong winds and rain are expected to pummel the region, getting worse by game’s end. There could even be 50 mph wind gusts — the remnants of a typhoon that is going to cause the biggest problems this weekend in Washington state. Officials were already issuing warnings about downed trees and power lines, as well as power outages. Conditions definitely will not favor passing.
UNDER ARMOUR UTES: The Utes will wear a new uniform combination for the game against the Beavers, pairing their matte black helmets with white pants and jerseys. The new look comes the same week that Utah agreed to a 10-year, $65 million extension with Under Armour, which has outfitted the football team since 2008 and the rest of the school’s athletic teams since 2011.