In Colorado’s last two games, the opposition has made a point of stopping running Phillip Lindsay, and they’ve done a solid job.
While Lindsay has scored three touchdowns in the past two games – a 41-30 loss at Arizona State and a 38-24 loss to USC – he has rushed for just 148 yards on 43 carries in those two contests combined. That’s his lowest two-game stretch of the season.
Only two of Lindsay’s 43 carries in those games went for more than seven yards – a 16-yarder and a 13-yarder vs. USC.
Now, the Buffs face a Utah defense that ranks fourth in the Pac-12 against the run, allowing just 141.3 yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry. Only Washington has allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than Utah (12).
Getting Lindsay going against the Utes could be vital to CU’s chances of winning tonight’s game.
“We’ve been lucky that we had the bye week and had a little bit more time to prepare and we’ve had a little bit more time of seeing them and getting used to what we’re going to see on defense,” CU center Jonathan Huckins said. “I think Phil and the O-line understand where we have to fit (runs). That’s one of the biggest things is just fitting runs and being patient with Phil and having him read our blocks.”
While Lindsay has been slowed down the past two games, sophomore quarterback Steven Montez has thrown for 721 yards – his best two-game stretch of the year – and co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said that’s been the positive out of Lindsay being slowed.
“People trying to commit so many people to Phil, I think that’s why you’ve seen Steven’s numbers really grow the last couple of weeks,” Chiaverini said. “He’s really opened up the pass game a little bit for us.”
Chiaverini said it’s important to get Lindsay going, however, and believes Montez’s success as a passer could help.
“The main thing is, we’re going to get Phil his touches and we have to do a great job up front of moving bodies,” Chiaverini said. “I think if we can hit some stuff in the pass game, it gets them focused more on our pass game and it kind of opens that box up a little bit, so I think the key is to be able to hit passes early in this game.”
Lindsay has had at least 21 touches in every game this season, and he leads the nation with 283 rushing attempts, so it’s a sure bet he’ll be a big part of the game.
“He’s a work horse and we’re definitely going to give our work horse the ball,” Chiaverini said.
Wary of Huntley
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley came into the week ranking 15th in the country in total offense, at 302.9 yards per game. He has thrown for 249.6 yards per game and rushed for 53.3 per contest.
“He can run around, he sit in the pocket and make throws, run on the run and make throws and he can beat you with his legs,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said.
CU has had trouble with dual-threat quarterbacks in the past and the Buffs know they have to be on their game against Huntley. Junior Evan Worthington could be especially important in that regard. If senior Ryan Moeller is unable to play because of a hip injury, Worthington will play in the Buff back position once again and that’s a key spot to stopping Huntley.
“We just have to contain him,” Worthington said. “I just have to stay home all game and make sure he doesn’t come to my side.”
For years, Utah has had some of the best special teams units in the Pac-12, and this year is no different.
Utah kicker Matt Gay and punter Mitch Wishnowsky are both finalists for national awards.
In the return game, the Utes have taken a kickoff and a punt back for touchdowns against the Buffs in recent years. And, on top of that, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham isn’t afraid to run fakes.
“You have to always be ready for their fakes,” MacIntyre said. “We learned that a couple years ago when we weren’t lined up correctly for a fake and it really cost us the game. Last year we were lined up for it, I think we’re lined up for it this year. I’m pretty sure they’ll have something up their sleeve.”
A few other notes going into today’s game against the Utes:
- The winner will be the ninth bowl-eligible team from the Pac-12, completing a nice bounce-back year for the conference. The Pac-12 had just six bowl teams in 2016, but had 10 in 2015.
- Montez has had three consecutive 300-yard passing games, joining UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Washington State’s Luke Falk as the only Pac-12 quarterbacks to do that this year. Rosen had a streak of five in a row earlier in the season.
- CU is one of just 11 teams in the country with a 2,500-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher.
- Lindsay needs 37 receiving yards to become the first running back in CU history with 1,000 for his career.
- Seven of CU’s 11 opponents to this point are bowl eligible: Colorado State, Washington, UCLA, Arizona, Washington State, Arizona State and USC.
- Montez ranks 11th on CU’s all-time passing list with 3,797 yards. He needs just 5 yards to pass Darian Hagan for 10th and needs 116 yards to pass Steve Vogel for ninth.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.