SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – So far this season, opposing defenses are looking for Love in all the wrong places.
Bryce Love leads the country in rushing with 1,088 yards, including a school record 301 yards last week against Arizona State. The Utes will try to contain the Stanford star running back Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“I was just like, man, how is this guy doing this?” Utes linebacker Kavika Luafatasaga said. “There were people there to tackle him, but he was just making guys miss. We haven’t been tested yet like how we’re going to be tested this week.”
“You’ve got to gang tackle this kid,” said Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham. “He’s not going to go down with an arm tackle. He’s a very physical runner, relative to his size. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, 5-11, 195 pounds.”
Love is averaging a staggering 11 yards a carry this season. But the Utes have the #1 rushing defense in the Pac-12, so something’s got to give Saturday night.
“It’ll be a great matchup, our rush defense against their rush offense,” Whittingham said. “They know that we know what they’re going to do, but they don’t care. They’re just going to keep doing it.”
Utah has played Stanford tough over the years. In fact, they’re 2-0 against the Cardinal since joining the Pac-12. Both schools bring similar styles into this showdown, priding themselves on being physical, tough, smash-mouth football teams.
“Being a hard-nosed team, being a tough team, we love the challenge,” said Utes quarterback Troy Williams. “Seeing another tough team like that, it’s just old fashioned football.”
“I guess it’s whoever’s the biggest bully,” said Utes offensive lineman Darrin Paulo. “This is the only time I endorse being a bigger bully, but other than that, I think we’re bigger than them.”
Williams is expected to get his first start of the season at quarterback for the Utes in place of Tyler Huntley, who injured his shoulder against Arizona. But Whittingham isn’t going to announce a starter until game time.
“We’ll see who is going to start on Saturday,” Whittingham said. “Everything is up in the air. There’s a lot of positions up in the air. Troy is completely acclimated to the offense prior to the bye week, so he didn’t need any extra time. He was already up to speed.”
“I’m not sure,” Williams said about his status. “I’m just going to continue to prepare myself and be right when my name is called. I just continue to prepare is if I was the starter. I told myself, OK now you have to do everything twice as much or three times as much. So that was a big thing, but preparing has always been the same for me.”
Utah and Stanford will kick off at 8:15 p.m. Saturday night.