Adams: Utah secondary will need to step up to take on ‘beast’ Connor Halliday

E.J. Deocampo | The Daily Evergreen

E.J. Deocampo | The Daily Evergreen

 

 

Up to this point, the 2014 version of the Utes have looked mighty impressive, and not just here in good ol’ Salt Lake City either. Utah made some noise across the country last week after its takeover of Ann Arbor. ESPN even dubbed the squad one of the most underrated teams in the country, something Ute fans have been saying for quite some time now.

Now, while I have been equally impressed by the production of this team, it’s time to throw it all out the window as the season really starts Saturday against Washington State.

Ever since joining the Pac-12 a few years back, Utah has never started conference play with a win. While this season looks and feels different than the last few, the Utes have always started a campaign hot, only to see it fizzle as Pac-12 opponents start rolling through.

I must admit, this year is nothing like past years. Utah never had a marquee road victory such as the one it registered last weekend in the Big House before taking on a conference foe, so the momentum heading into this game on Saturday is hard to ignore.

That said, the Cougars will be a different story than any other team the Utes have faced this season. Sure, Michigan was a great win at an even greater venue, but the Wolverines aren’t all that good this season, with the exception of wideout Devin Funchess.

Well, Washington State isn’t all that good either, but they are a Pac-12 team. I’ll take a struggling Pac-12 team over a struggling Big 10 squad any day. On top of that, the Cougars are coming off a week that saw them nearly upset the team that some think is the best in all the land, Oregon. It wasn’t just a lucky, close-for-a-second type of game either. Washington State competed and kept it close with the Ducks all game long, and it wasn’t until there were only five minutes left in the fourth quarter that Oregon pulled ahead for good.

In addition, Cougar quarterback Connor Halliday is an absolute beast. The senior signal caller benefits from a pass-happy offense, averaging nearly 500 yards per game, but it’s the way he has done it — completing 68 percent of his passes — that has been the most impressive.

With the exception of dominating a struggling Devin Gardner and inexperienced Shane Morris, Utah’s secondary hasn’t been that great this season and will need to be on top of its game if it expects to shut down this great quarterback.

By the end of the weekend, I expect the Utes to be 4-0 and beat this Washington State squad with relative ease Saturday evening, giving Utah its first 1-0 start to Pac-12 play since joining the conference. I mean, this team did lose to Rutgers and Nevada, after all.

All I know is that if Eric Rowe, Brian Blechen and the rest of the Utah secondary aren’t ready for this air raid, then it’s going to be a shootout of a game, and Utah doesn’t want that.

g.adams@chronicle.utah.edu

@GriffDoug

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