Utah Utes: Five Essentials For San Jose State

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Utah Utes: Five Essentials For San Jose State
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Utah got the job done on all five essentials in last week's opener against the Aggies.

Terrance Cain got plenty of reps. And played very well.

The Utes didn't overlook Utah State, they got ahead early, stayed healthy and broke in both coordinators well.

If anything, the Utes only real struggle against Utah State was the propensity to give up big plays defensively.

Looking ahead to this weekend, Utah will face another overlooked WAC opponent in San Jose State with Head Coach Dick Tomey.

Ute die-hards may remember Tomey from his vaunted Desert Swarm defense at Arizona.

The team then-Freshman Kevin Dyson beat with a one-handed snag in the end-zone to bail out Mike McCoy on fourth down and game in the 1994 Freedom Bowl.

Hopefully, tomorrow's game won't be as dramatic.

Here are five essentials Utah must accomplish for Saturday Night's big match-up in San Jose.

1. Get Acclimated to the Road

If the Utes are BCS bound again in 2009, they'll have to do it on the road.

All year. For just about every big game.

Against their toughest non-conference (Oregon) opponent and against nearly every top Mountain West (Colorado State, UNLV, TCU and BYU) conference team.

Despite what the BCS might say, this is no easy task.

This weekend's game in San Jose is the perfect venue to get acclimated to the road. Get the routine down. Get used to a hostile crowd. Get cadence.

More significantly, it will give new QB Terrance Cain experience calling plays and operating the offense outside the confines of Rice-Eccles.

Cain does come in somewhat inexperience having taken limited reps with the first team offense.

A downside to having a crowded three man QB competiton throughout the Spring and Summer.

The timing of the excursion to San Jose couldn't be better.

It lands just one week before the Utes travel to Autzen Stadium in Eugene, OR for one of their biggest and most telling matchups of the season.

Autzen is reputed as one of the toughest venues for visiting teams to play.

With all that's happened so far this year with the Oregon program, I don't see that letting up.  Certainly not against Utah.

Truthfully, the Ducks are just one big win away from completely restoring their season. Utah may be the perfect target.

If the Utes thought the Big House was loud and obnoxious last year. Imagine this quote from a Michigan Daily Columnist.

"Autzen's 59,000 strong make the Big House collectively sound like a pathetic whimper. It’s louder than any place I’ve ever been, and that includes The Swamp at Florida, The Shoe in Columbus, and Death Valley at Louisiana State. Autzen Stadium is where great teams go to die."

Gulp!

not to get too caught up in next week's game, just underscoring the importance of using this game a great road prep for a season full of hostile travel.

While I wouldn't expect a daunting crowd at Spartan Stadium, the Spartans rarely get visits from teams with this high of a profile.

So the Utes should expect a solid draw.

 

2. No need to outpace USC

The San Jose State Spartans opened their season last week at the LA Coliseum against fourth ranked USC.

Sparta fell to the Trojans 56-3. Tough feat to follow.

While it's important for Utah to win convincingly if they can, the Utes need not bother trying to one-up or match what the Trojans accomplished last week against San Jose State.

I doubt this will be on any of the coach's minds. But it will be on the fans, some pollsters and maybe even some players.

For starters, the Trojans were home, it was opening week, and USC's two and three deep is a very talented and a very hungry group.

No surprise the Trojans never let up. Even after the game was out of reach.

It's better for Utah to focus on things they can control. First and foremost, win the game.

Don't overlook the Spartans. Strive to get ahead early. Put the game away quickly. Avoid injury, and get the two-deep some much needed game time experience, if possible.

With BYU's big win last week coupled with the burgeoning strength of the conference and the street cred the Utes have already built for themselves, they don't need to make a statement here. Just win.

 

3. Defense: Bend but don't break

The Ute defense has been plagued by giving up the big-play.

In many cases, players are just simply overplaying or missing assignments trying to make a big play themselves.

While Utah's defense can be lock-down phenomenal, it can be hit or miss if they try to hit home runs. 

As evidenced by Utah's two safeties and 96-yard TD run given up last week to the Aggies.

The San Jose State offense can be anemic. Utah can be patient defensively and still keep the Spartans out of the end zone for most of the night.

Bend but not break.

 

4. Stay healthy

Koa Misi is expected to return as a starting DE for Utah. Obviously the coaching staff will be monitoring Koa closely.

They'll give Koa some reps, solid game time experience and live action but will also make sure he is kept well-rested, out of harm's way and ready to go for the rest of the season. 

Misi is a vital component of this defense. However, the Utes are still in good hands without him. Nai Fotu and Christian Cox both played very well in Misi's absence last week.

Matt Asiata will have another field day against a WAC opponent.

Not taking anything away from San Jose State.

While the Spartans are well-coached and very talented defensively, I'd expect Matt to post another 100-yard game. Sparta just doesn't seem equipped to stop this beast.

Utah may find it tempting to control the ball, chew up clock and preserve a big lead by using Asiata late into the game with the "Asiata Formation".

The coaches should avoid that if possible and let Eddie Wide and Sausan Shakerin split carries. Both backs can explosive. Wide looked phenomenal last week as a change of pace back.

Shak can play the same bruising role as Asiata.

 

5. Get Terrance Cain more reps and more looks

Cain looked terrific in the opener. He played his role well. Didn't make mistakes. Found the mismatches and hit his targets.

He particularly performed well with the underneath targets.

Terrance looked exceptional running the ball.

The Utes might serve Cain well giving him more liberty with the deep ball.

Not only will this stretch the offense, but it will also help him become more comfortable as a multi-dimensional QB. 

That seems to be the one component Cain struggled the most with last week.

I like the idea that Cain starts out against two softer opponents with terrific schematic coaches.

If all goes well, Cain will have seen some very aggressive defensive packages with the comfort of not having to make plays and carry Utah to a win.

 

 

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