SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – There were some pretty big expectations surrounding the Utah defense this season, and so far, the Utes have lived up to the hype.
The Utes are fourth in the nation in total defense, second in rushing defense, sixth in points allowed. And they just snapped Arizona State’s NCAA record of 125 straight games of scoring in double figures.
Five of Utah’s seven opponents this year have been held to their season-low point totals against the Utes.
“The numbers were as good as I can ever remember,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham about the Utes performance against the Sun Devils. “I thought the plan was very good going in. But again, the plan is only as good as the players that are executing it.”
One player executing at a very high level is defensive end Bradlee Anae. Coming off his second 3-sack game against ASU, Anae earned national player of the week honors.
“For his senior year, he is playing his best football,” Whittingham said. “He’s a complete defensive end. There really is no weakness. He plays the run, he plays the pass.”
But as well as the defense has played, Anae says they can get even better.
“We’re doing some good things, but we still need to be consistent,” said Anae, who is five sacks away from breaking Hunter Dimick’s school record for career sacks. “This is just the middle of the season, and I want to have a successful season all throughout.”
As for the secondary, the Utes just held the Sun Devils to four completions for 25 yards, their best game in the Pac-12 era.
“Honestly, it’s an overall team effort,” said cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who held Arizona State’s leading receiver Brandon Aiyuk to one catch for seven yards. “The defensive line was getting to the quarterback, and we we covering for as long as we can. Honestly, it’s just a group effort. Everybody has to do their job to make it work.”
“That is such a weapon for a defensive coordinator to have the ability to take something away and know it’s going to be taken away,” Whittingham said about Johnson’s shutdown ability. “
With the Utes facing Cal’s freshman third string quarterback this Saturday, another dominant performance could be on the horizon.
“We’re going up against a beat up offense, and we’re just excited to get after this Cal team,” Anae said. “We’re just a bunch of hungry guys who want to play hard every game and every snap.”