By: Daniel Olsen
October 11, 2018
(Featured photo credited to Deseret News)
One quarterback is a dual threat. The other quarterback…. is a dual threat. Both of them are talented enough to give opposing defenses trouble yet neither of them could compete in the Clydesdale division of a race (over 200 pounds).
So just what else do these two quarterbacks have in common? They happen to be playing against each other in their own college version of Friday Night Lights. Their names? Khalil Tate and Tyler Huntley.
The Utes have had their ups and downs. That much we know. However, so have the Arizona Wildcats. Their home opener against BYU was a pretty poor way to start the Kevin Sumlin era as they were dominated for the majority of the game. Things got worse against the Cougars of Houston.
The Utes are heavily favored to win this game. Over 80 percent favorites actually! However they were heavy underdogs against #14 Stanford last Saturday. Anything can happen in the PAC-12 and the Arizona Wildcats have been good against any team without a Cougar as its mascot. As a top rival of the BYU Cougars, the Utes night just be the anti-Cougar that the Wildcats might have a chance against.
Since the cat fights gone wrong, the Wildcats have won BIG games including doubling Southern Utah’s score, dismantling mighty Oregon State, and beating the powerhouse California Golden Bears that beat BYU, giving themselves a moral victory to avenge the home opener loss. Ok maybe those games aren’t as BIG as we thought but the only game they lost in that stretch was a close one to USC.
The Utes on the other hand had a few let downs as the season went on before they woke up like a sleeping giant to slay another giant in the #14 team in the nation: The Stanford Cardinal. The red and white Utes weren’t afraid of a team named after a different shade of red. Seriously what is cardinal red? It’s hard to find that in a Crayola box. And don’t start on the nerds at Stanford. It should be a crime to let nerds watch football.
When Stanford made a 20 point evaporate to 6 points the cameras at ESPN panned onto the sea of nerds that looked happier than they did when they aced their advanced calculus test. They got a B+ as their team threw picks at the end to lose to the Utes by 19.
So in what scenario do the Utes win? In what scenario to the Wildcats of Tucson, Arizona leave them…..deserted? Here are the keys to the game on all sides of the ball.
1. Key on offense: Keep doing something
In their losses the Ute offense has done nothing. Well, you could argue that they were figuring a few things out at Washington State but the loss at home to Washington the week before was just sad. 7 points? That’s not Ute football. It doesn’t matter that they are traditionally more of a running than passing school. They should be able to run their way to victory or at least compete with most teams.
Again, if Tyler Huntley keeps doing SOMETHING with the football, whether it’s converting little screen passes or handing it off to Zach Moss for 20 yards then the Utes will be in good shape on offense. Arizona doesn’t look like a world beating defense so even a B+ Ute effort could still eek out a victory over Arizona in most scenarios.
Key on defense: Get to the quarterback
BYU beat Arizona by being more physical. They sent a message. However, Arizona might try to send a message of their own to the Utes. The Wildcats were good last year once Tate was thrown into the starting role. Now teams seem to have figured him out but with some wins he might be gaining some confidence again. The Utes just have to take away what he does well which is make plays with the ball in his hands.
This means sending the house to blitz him and keeping a solid coverage on the other Wildcat offensive players. If the Utes let Tate have time to make a sandwich and call his girlfriend during a play then they can bet he will find a way to make a play with his arm or his feet. Again, put more pressure on the quarterback than you would when popping a zit on your forehead.
Special teams Key: In Matt Gay we trust
The Lou Groza kicker of the year last year might have some competition from another finalist last year in Utah State’s Dominik Eberle. Eberle is 100% on field goals while Gay is 8 for 11. However, it is the golden toe of this former Orem High Tiger that might be required to make a difference in big moments of this game. Not all drives end in a touchdown so three points will be better than nothing if the Utes can convert them from a reasonable distance.
While both quarterbacks probably won “Best Athlete” at their high school only one will win eternal glory. Ok maybe not that, but the PAC-12 South Division team that gets the win will hit the showers as a bunch of happy campers. May the best athletes win.