LOS ANGELES (WTAJ) — A downhill attack that values the ball, mitigating negative plays, and is comfortable letting its defense carry the weight is the script for just about every team in the Big Ten. It’s also the script for Utah.
Head Coach Kyle Whittingham has built an attack at Utah capable of scoring points in bunches, scoring 40-plus in seven different games. Its also limited offenses, holding opponents to 21 or fewer in eight games.
“You could argue that they may have more of a Big Ten style than what you see traditionally out west,” Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “And you could also argue that might be why they’re so successful. Because it feels to me from the outside that the tougher team normally wins this league. You can say that about most leagues, but it feels like in the PAC 12, when SC had it rolling there for a while, when Stanford had it rolling there for a while, and certainly Utah the last two years has been the toughest team in this league. And it’s no surprise that that’s gotten them to back-to-back Rose Bowls.”
Quarterback Cam Rising leads the Utes’ offense. His 59 combined touchdowns in his two years starting is second among PAC 12 players. He has shades of Sean Clifford. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, and isn’t the most accurate, but gets the job done.
The Utes offense, in terms of output, is quite balanced averaging 220 yards per game rushing, and 250 yards per game passing.
“They’re not a traditional PAC 12 team, but they’re not how USC, UCLA are. They want to air the ball out and score 45 on you. They’re okay trying to score 17 and win the game because they know they have on defense,” linebacker Curtis Jacobs, said. “So it’s just it’s very similar to the big, Big Ten how they want to run the ball and pound on you.”
Some of Utah’s physical attack will be absent in Monday’s game as leading receiver, tight end, Dalton Kincaid and leading rusher Tavion Thomas will both miss the bowl. Penn State will also be without a couple, most notably Joey Porter Jr., who will be preparing for the NFL Draft and the injured wide receiver Parker Washington.
While the Nittany Lions do have a larger returning cast, challenging Rising will be key for Penn State down the stretch. With Penn State’s solid defense and lack of offensive stars for the Utes, Rising might face one of the toughest defenses he’s faced this season.