Oct. 21, 2003
Head Coach Rocky Long
Question: What does Utah look like on defense?
Rocky Long: "They're big and physical up front on defense. They normally are able to control the line of scrimmage with just a seven-man front, which allows them to play a lot of safe coverages. They're very solid overall on defense."
Q: On offense?
RL: "Offensively, they are different than anybody we've seen since I've been here. Northwestern made this offense popular a few years ago when they had great success and tied for a Big Ten Championship. They (Utah's coaching staff) also had success with it at Bowling Green."
"They want to run the ball first and then throw it second. They spread all the receivers out, so if you go out and cover them, they hand it to the running back and then they have a blocker on a blocker with a running back that's really good and doesn't have to break a tackle to get into the secondary. And if you put enough guys in there to stop the run, they have really good receivers one-on-one and their quarterback has been really efficient throwing the ball. So it gets into a guessing game on defense whether you want five or six in the box or seven in the box."
"They have several different types of option plays where they run an option play or a shovel pass at the same time. The offense is a lot like the wishbone where they have several options on any play, which makes it hard in a week to prepare and take all the options away. Every team will get a better handle of the offense after they see it for a year or two. But right now, it's a lot like playing against the wishbone - you don't have time to prepare for it."
"It will look different to everybody because people aren't use to seeing it. If you understand what they're doing, it's not filled with gimmicks at all, it's well thought out and well planned. If you execute the offense correctly, x and o wise, there's no way to stop it."
"On defense you try to disguise what you're doing and guess with them. When they snap the ball, you hope to get seven in there on the last minute. But they also run many different formations. They have more empty sets (no running backs) than any team we've seen. They have 15 to 20 empty sets a game."
"Their offense is not a physical offense anymore. It used to be a power running game just like us, but now it's more of a finesse offense. It's an offense where they don't have to block everybody. They're running the ball very well, but it's not a power running game, it's all finesse."
Q: What is Utah's quarterback (Alex Smith) like as a runner?
RL: "He doesn't look that good running the ball, but he's very effective. Against UNLV, the defensive ends did what they were told, and he just out-ran them. The ends played it just like you were supposed too, and he still ran for a lot of yards. He's faster than he looks and he's shiftier than he looks. When you just watch him, he doesn't appear to be a great ball carrier, but when you watch everyone else, no one can tackle him, so he must be a pretty good ball carrier."
"He's also very careful with the ball (no interceptions in 138 attempts). A lot of his passes are one-on-one situations. Because of their offense, teams don't play double coverages or combination coverages. He's been trained very well and they've done a good job coaching him."
Q: Does the 14 turnovers your team has caused the past three weeks signify the defense is playing better?
RL: "I think we're making better plays when the opportunity arises. We had opportunities to get turnovers in the games before and we didn't make the play. So, yes, we are playing better, because we're taking advantage of our opportunities."
"Since the Washington State game, we've been playing a lot more zone coverage. If you can get decent heat on the quarterback, zone coverage will give you a better chance for interceptions. On the flip side, if you don't get decent heat on the quarterback, it's much easier to throw the ball in zone coverage because there's no one chasing the receiver."