SALT LAKE CITY — Nothing offers better evidence of Utah's radical offensive transformation than the number of explosive plays it has generated so far this season — a stark contrast to last year when the Utes struggled to move the chains on most drives and rarely had game-changing offensive plays.
Utah (2-0) had six scoring plays of 20 yards or more in the first half of a 70-7 rout of Weber State last weekend. The Utes had 628 yards of total offense — the eighth most in school history.
WHEN, WHERE: Tonight, 7 o'clock, at Salt Lake City.
Today, Utah hosts Oregon State, a team that has struggled to find its offense after the first two games of the season. The Beavers have relied on quarterback Sean Mannion, who threw for 372 yards and four scores in a victory over Hawaii last weekend.
Nothing offers better evidence of Utah's radical offensive transformation than the number of explosive plays it has generated so far this season — a stark contrast to last year when the Utes struggled to move the chains on most drives and rarely had game-changing offensive plays.
"We had some quick-strike scoring drives that didn't last very long — you know, one or two plays or three plays," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "That's something that has been severely lacking the last couple years and it has shown up in the first two games this season. We hope it continues, because if it does, then our offense has a chance to be pretty darn good."
Travis Wilson has embraced the new uptempo offense, passing for 264 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 93 yards and two scores by halftime against Weber State. He ranks third nationally in yards per completion (18.26).
"I feel like I've grown a lot in the passing game," Wilson said. "I really have faith in my linemen in front of me and I have great faith in the wide receivers around me, too. I know once I get the ball in their hands, they'll make big plays."
Utah's opponent this weekend, Oregon State, offers an equally potent passing attack behind Mannion, who led the Beavers to a 33-14 victory over Hawaii last weekend, reviving the Beavers after a season-opening upset loss to lower-tier Eastern Washington.
Mannion has completed 80 percent of his passes this season and boasts a 181.2 quarterback efficiency rating.
But injuries have taken a toll on the Beavers, who lost three starters against Hawaii. Starting right guard Roman Sapolu is likely gone for the season after suffering a foot injury. Starting right tackle Grant Enger suffered a sprained knee and will likely be out until the end of September. Starting linebacker Michael Doctor is also out for an indefinite period after undergoing left foot surgery on Sunday.
"We already had our share of early season injuries and it's been disruptive, but nobody blinks," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "We've got some tremendous leaders on this team, and a stable group of coaches and it's been full speed ahead. I've been impressed with their reaction."
Five things to watch when Oregon State visits Utah today:
NO MORE 0-4? — Utah has lost four straight games to open Pac-12 play each of the past two seasons. Six of those losses were by 10 or more points. The Utes are eager to finally reverse that trend. "It hurts," junior safety Eric Rowe said. "We work so hard and go 0-4. Then we got to play catch-up. We don't want to put ourselves in a hole like that (again), so this year we want to get off on the right foot. Get our Pac-12 wins because we definitely want to go to a bowl game this year."
STEVENSON SUSPENED — Oregon State running back Jovan Stevenson will not play in the first half of the Utah game. The Pac-12 Conference suspended Stevenson for a late hit he made on a defenseless opponent during Oregon State's victory over Hawaii. The hit occurred on a punt return late in the first half.
SECONDARY TEST — Utah's inexperienced secondary will get a major test against Oregon State. Rowe is the only returning starter from last season in the entire unit. It will face a Beavers aerial attack that ranks third among FBS schools with 436.5 yards per game.
GAINING GROUND — With two missing starters on the offensive line, Oregon State will likely need better production out of the backfield to relieve pressure on Mannion. Leading rusher Storm Woods has just 118 yards on 33 carries so far this season. The Beavers are averaging only 81 yards rushing per game, which ranks 117th among FBS schools.
THE 100-YARD CLUB — Could another Utah receiver be poised for a big day? Two different wide receivers have tallied at least 100 yards in the Utes' 2-0 start. Anthony Denham had 113 yards on six catches against Utah State. Dres Anderson tallied 103 yards and a touchdown on four receptions against Weber State a week later.