Huard’s UW Huskies Preview: How Utah’s D will attack Penix

Nov 10, 2023, 9:37 AM

UW Huskies...

Michael Penix Jr. of the Washington Huskies against the Oregon Ducks on Oct. 14, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The UW Huskies passed their first November test last weekend, beating USC 52-42 in a shootout.

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Next up is a very different test in 7-2 Utah, which comes to Seattle ranked 13th in the nation by the Associated Press. The Huskies, meanwhile, are a perfect 9-0 and ranked fifth overall. UW needs to win two of its next three games in order to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game.

Former UW Huskies quarterback Brock Huard is on the call for UW-Utah for FOX Sports this weekend, and he shared his thoughts on the matchup during Thursday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports.

“I told you off the top that that’s a clash of styles offensively,” Huard told Aaron Goldsmith, who filled in for Mike Salk.

UW’s strength is its offense, primarily in the passing game.

The Huskies, led by star quarterback Michael Penix Jr., are No. 1 in the country in passing yards per game and No. 4 in both points and total yards of offense.

The Utes, meanwhile, run the ball a lot, ranking 25th in the country in rushing yards per game. That is a big part of why Utah is No. 1 in the nation in time of possession this year.

Defensively, Utah is very good once again. Despite a blowout loss to Oregon and a shootout win over USC, Utah is ninth in points per game, 10th in total defense, sixth in run defense and 34th in pass defense.

Utah has a lot of continuity, led by head coach Kyle Wittingham, who has ran the program since 2005 and has been on the staff since 1994. Many of his assistant coaches have had long tenures at Utah, too, including defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley.

Through his duties with FOX, Huard talks to coaches and players before calling their games. He’s gotten to know Whittingham and Scalley very well because of that.

“You just get around these guys as long as we have and you get a little sense,” Huard said, “and I think this is our fifth Utah game in the last year-plus.”

Huard thinks he has a feel for what Utah wants to do defensively against Penix and the high-powered UW offense.

“You could just almost see it in Morgan Scalley, like, yeah, I know nobody else has really blitzed and pressured Michael Penix (this year),” Huard said. “Arizona State did. They were the one team … (Penix) was nowhere near as good (against ASU as he was against other teams). He was under 50% (completion percentage), he threw an interception and they came at him a bunch. And outside of ASU, nobody else has.”

Huard said that led to him asking Scalley why that’s been the case.

“You’d think (that’s) the blueprint, and if Arizona State could do it and impact (Penix) and (force) a couple interceptions – one tipped, a fumble – why isn’t everybody doing it?” Huard said. “And his answer was pretty good. Because they’re scared. Because those receivers, the Ja’Lynn Polks, the Germie Bernards, the Rome Odunzes, they scare you. You don’t want to leave them isolated one-on-one. So that will be the conundrum.

“And if I know Morgan Scalley and I know Kyle Whittingham – and I’ve gotten to know them over the years – they don’t play scared. That is the antithesis of their culture. They come at you. They come swinging at you.”

Huard shared a quote from Scalley that seems pretty telling for how Utah will approach its matchup with the UW Huskies.

“Morgan has said to us a number of times, ‘If I’m going to die, I want a quick death, and I don’t mind calling it that way rather than be papercut 1,000 times to death,'” Huard said. “So they’re going to bring it. I’d be surprised if they play a passive brand of football against Michael Penix, even as talented as they are on the perimeter.”

Listen to the second hour of Thursday’s Brock and Salk at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

More on the UW Huskies

Chris Petersen: Why UW Huskies ranking out of CFP is no concern
Why Herbstreit’s eye is on potential UW Huskies rematch vs Oregon
• Zion Tupuola-Fetui made big play for UW Huskies with a heavy heart
• Caple’s UW Huskies Takeaways: What stands out from win over USC
• UW Huskies’ 2024 Big Ten schedule set — room for Apple Cup left?

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