GAME NOTES: Two teams coming off of thrilling victories will clash on
Saturday afternoon, as the 20th-ranked Utah Utes host the 15th-ranked Arizona
Wildcats in Pac-12 Conference action at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Casey Skowron kicked two field goals in the fourth quarter, including a 47-
yarder as time expired, to lift Arizona to a 27-26 win at home against
Washington last weekend. It was an important victory for the Wildcats, who
have come out on top in back-to-back games and are currently tied with UCLA
and Arizona State for second place in the Pac-12 South Division standings
(5-2). They own an 8-2 overall mark.
“It’s gone down to the wire before but that’s the definition of a good team,
when you find ways to win and pull it out,” Arizona safety Jourdon Grandon
said. “Football is a crazy game and that’s why it’s not played on paper. You
just have to keep playing as hard as you can and good things will happen for
Utah knows all about a game coming down to the wire, as it took two overtime
sessions for it to take out Stanford, 20-17, last weekend on the road. The
Utes and Cardinal each scored a touchdown in the first half, but that was the
only scoring in regulation. Travis Wilson then threw touchdown passes to
Kaelin Clay and Kenneth Scott during the Utes’ two overtime possessions to
help Utah escape. They really needed the victory, having lost their previous
“I think we just knew it was really crunch time. We knew we had to execute,”
Wilson said of the overtime performance. “And that first play in overtime we
saw the look we’ve been practicing in practice, and it was Kaelin, executed it
perfectly and set it up really nice.”
Last season, Arizona pulled out a 35-24 victory over Utah at home. It was the
second straight win for the Wildcats in the series, which the Utes lead,
Arizona had a slow offensive day and a miserable defensive one against
Washington. The Wildcats only had 375 yards of total offense, while letting up
504 to the Huskies. They are normally a much more potent bunch, ranking fourth
in the Pac-12 in total offense (492.2 ypg).
Anu Solomon has been tremendous at quarterback for UA, throwing for 3,058
yards and 25 touchdowns on 58 percent passing, while being intercepted only
seven times. However, he was out of sync against the Huskies. He finished with
a respectable 242 yards passing, but he completed just 17-of-39 passes, while
making a pair of errant throws that were picked off by Washington defenders.
Nick Wilson had to fight for every inch against Washington, but he still
managed to eclipse the 100-yard mark, finishing with 104 to be exact, as well
as two touchdowns on 30 carries. Wilson is the leading rusher for the Wildcats
this season, with 867 yards and nine scores on 160 carries. He has done an
excellent job of avoiding negative runs, with only eight yards lost. Terris
Jones-Grigsby (474 yards, three TDs) is a solid option in relief.
Cayleb Jones (58 receptions, 788 yards, eight TDs), Austin Hill (35
receptions, 480 yards, four TDs) and Samajie Grant (32 receptions, 466 yards,
three TDs) give the Wildcats a solid trio of receivers. Jones had five catches
for 54 yards against Washington and Grant finished with 85 yards on four
Arizona’s weak defensive effort against Washington, at least in terms of yards
allowed, was a bit more expected. The Wildcats are only eighth in the Pac-12
in total defense (445.2 ypg), despite the best efforts of Scooby Wright, who
leads the conference in tackles (118), ranks second in tackles for loss (22),
and third in sacks (12.0).
Although they have won seven games this season, the Utes have not made it look
easy on offense. They are last in the league in yards per game (367.4),
although they are scoring a respectable 31.4 points per contest. They fell
below even those meager numbers against Stanford, with only 247 total yards
and 20 points.
Wilson threw for two touchdowns in the game, both in overtime, but he had only
177 yards on 21-of-28 passing, despite getting all the extra time after
regulation. Wilson is only averaging 155.8 yards per game in the passing game.
However, he has been an efficient passer, completing just under 60 percent of
his tosses and his touchdown (13) to interceptions (two) ratio is top notch.
Scott (33 receptions, 351 yards, four TDs) is the leading receiver, at least
in terms of catches. Clay (25 receptions, 333 yards, two TDs) is the bigger
deep threat, although the best receiver on the roster was lost for the season
when Dres Anderson (22 receptions, 355 yards, four TDs) was ruled out for the
remainder of the season with a knee injury suffered at the end of October.
The running game is in good hands. Devontae Booker is one of three running
backs in the Pac-12 with more than 1,000 yards this season. To be exact, he
has 1,113 yards to go with eight touchdowns. Booker is also a frequent target
in the passing game, with 252 yards and two scores on 30 receptions, the
second-most on the team.
The main attraction when watching Utah football isn’t on offense, however. The
Utes’ defensive front is responsible for the most sacks in the country (47)
and the third-most tackles for loss (86). Nate Orchard is the primary
offender, as he has racked up 16.5 sacks, which is tied with Washington’s
Hau’oli Kikaha for the most in the nation, and is a single-season program
Utah will bring constant pressure against Solomon and that could cause the
Wildcats’ quarterback to be erratic once again. If Utah can cause a few
turnovers because of that pressure then it’s offense should be able to do just
enough to produce a victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah 28, Arizona 27