The Cougars are headed to Salt Lake City to try to get back on their winning ways after losing a close game to Oregon last week. Utah is coming off a win over Michigan at The Big House and are looking to start their pac-12 play with a win.
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Utah came into Pullman last season and lost in what would turn out to be the Cougars last win of the 2013 season. Halliday and the rest of the team fought for their 6th win and to become bowl eligible after not being to a bowl game since 2003.
Utah quarterback Travis Wilson did not play in last seasons game as he sat out due to a concussion. Adam Shulz came in for Wilson but was unable to get the job done.
Here are some things to watch for against the Utes
Halliday vs Utah Secondary
The Utah secondary has allowed an average of 210 yards per game through 3 games this season and is good enough for 41st in the nation. Halliday has averaged 475 yards per game through the air through 4 games which is good enough for second in the nation.
This matchup is going to determine who wins this game. There really is not much of a running game and it is really going to depend on who slips up first. Halliday has been having a great season as he is already 162 of 238 for 1,901 yards and 16 touchdowns.
This is going to be an interesting matchup as both sides have done their part at finding and targeting the weaknesses of the opposition. Who is going to come out on top depends on who wins this matchup.
What to watch for: Halliday going for his 4th game this season with more than 400 passing yards in the game
Utah Special Teams
Special teams is where the Utes have excelled this season and do so behind the legs of Kaelin Clay who has already returned 3 kicks for a touchdown. It is not only excelling behind clay but everywhere else as well. They lead the nation in net punt yards (46.7), second in return kick average (33.5), and third in punt average (48.3 yards) and are doing great kicking the ball as well. Andy Phillips scores an average of 11 points per game and has a 83.3% field goal percentage.
The Cougars are going to have to be careful when kicking to clay and are going to have to really step up when it comes to their special teams. After losing Andrew Furney to the NFL the Cougars have been struggling with finding their groove when it comes to a kicker.
There is going to be a lot of attention on this as the Cougars have shown they can succeed on offense and defense and now need to show it on special teams.
What to watch for: The Utes using their special teams to put a dent in Washington State
Running Game vs Front 7
The Cougars running game in the first two games this season were not good at all and averaged just 22 yards a game but started to turn that around against Portland State and Oregon and now are averaging just over 45 yards per game.
Utah succeeds on defense and if they are able to stop the passing game then the running game is going to have to pick up a lot of slack and take over the game. There are a lot of possibilities in this game for the running game as Utah will more than likely leave the box open and defend the pass. Running backs Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow have come out of their shell in recent games this year and it is showing as Halliday has had some great games recently.
This is going to be one of the main things to watch this weekend as it is going to have a great influence on who can come out on top.
What to watch for: The Cougars trying to get their running game out of the basement
Travis Wilson has had as many attempts as Halliday had completions before the end of week 2 so far this season. The Utes run the ball for the most part of the game and Washington State is really going to have to step up to stop them.
Last week we saw the Ducks struggle against the run game and it is going to be a huge part of the game this weekend if they are able to do the same thing this week. There was a point in the second quarter of last weeks game where they had negative yards rushing and a lot of that came from the Cougars attacking the run game behind the line of scrimmage.
That kind of performance is going to be needed this weekend in order for the Cougars to come out on top. After seeing what they did last week against such a good team it is going to be fun to watch them this weekend against a team that is not Oregon.
What to watch for: Cougars stopped Oregon’s running game, can they do it against Utah?
Spreading The Ball Around
Halliday has found at least 9 receivers in each game at least once this season and is continuing to spread the ball around a lot. All but one of the 12 receivers that have caught a ball this season have more than one catch on the year. Besides that 1 player, there is nobody with less than 10 yards and 5 players have caught a touchdown pass.
Spreading the ball around is one of Halliday’s best traits and it should be a big help on Saturday when he is able to put the ball in any of his receivers hands if there is no other open receivers. He is not the best when he is forced out of the pocket, so being able to find someone who is open is going to help him out greatly.
What to watch for: Halliday throwing to many different receivers.