No. 11 Utah looks to stay mistake-free vs. Idaho St.
Field Level Mediaon
Utah has elevated taking care of the football to an art early in the season.
The No. 11 Utes enter Saturday's home game against Idaho State as the only FBS team yet to allow a sack or turn the ball over through its first two games.
"It won't last forever, but it's been two good weeks of that," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham told reporters this week. "We'd love to extend it, but realistically that's not something we can do the whole season."
Being sack- and turnover-free has helped transform the Utah offense into a productive and efficient unit.
The Utes (2-0) have scored 30 or more points in each of their first two games for first time since 2014 and just the third time since 1995. Utah ranks second in the Pac-12 in rushing offense (227.5 yards per game) -- led by 133.5 yards per contest from Zack Moss.
Utah's players credit the offensive scheme installed by new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig with setting the team up for success. Ludwig preaches ball security and makes things simple enough for the Utes to achieve that goal.
"We're just older as a team, and his system is designed for us to just go out there one play at a time and execute and just make plays," quarterback Tyler Huntley said. "Just trusting the system leads to great things."
Huntley's effectiveness in the passing game has played a vital role in putting together an efficient, error-free offense.
The senior is completing 77.1 percent of his passes through Utah's first two games. Huntley posted an FBS-best 98.6 quarterback rating in Week 2, throwing for 214 yards and a touchdown on 14-of-19 passing in a 35-17 victory over Northern Illinois.
"He's got a great deal of confidence right now in what he's doing," Whittingham said. "He's got a great grasp of what Andy's scheme is all about."
As well as Utah's offense has performed in the first two games, it is still the Utes' defense that's giving opposing coaches sleepless nights in their game planning.
Idaho State faces the challenge of trying to move the ball on a defense that leads the Pac-12 in rushing defense (79.5 ypg) and is allowing only 14.5 points and 301 yards per game. The odds aren't favorable for the Bengals, who are 0-14 all-time against Pac-12 opponents.
"They're all good players," Idaho State coach Rob Phenicie said. "They don't seem to have a weakness."
The Bengals (1-0) looked sharp in a season-opening 38-13 victory over Western Colorado. Matt Struck ran the offense like a new car engine, throwing for 402 yards and four touchdowns. Struck ended up posting the highest single-game passing yardage total for a Bengal quarterback making their first start since Justin Arias threw for 439 yards against Dixie State in 2013.
Tanner Conner and Michael Dean each had more than 100 receiving yards against the Mountaineers. Conner finished with 173 yards and two touchdowns on 10 receptions. Dean tallied 163 yards and a touchdown on eight catches.
As effective as they were a week ago, facing an experienced Utah secondary brimming with speed and athleticism will offer a major challenge. Julian Blackmon has made an interception in back-to-back weeks, and Jaylon Johnson is one of the top cornerbacks in the nation.
"You got to isolate your matchups as best as you can and hopefully attack it the right way," Phenicie said.
Utah leads the series with Idaho State 7-0. The Utes clashed with the Bengals in 2014 and walked away with a 56-14 victory. Idaho State has beaten just two FBS opponents in the last 20 seasons -- earning victories over Utah State in 2000 and Nevada in 2017.