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Utah football notes: Tackling is an issue for the Utes

Oregon Ducks running back Royce Freeman (21) runs by Utah Utes defensive tackle Filipo Mokofisi (45)  in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. Oregon won 30-28.
Oregon Ducks running back Royce Freeman (21) runs by Utah Utes defensive tackle Filipo Mokofisi (45) in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. Oregon won 30-28.
Jeffrey D. Allred,

BOULDER, Colo. — When it comes to making stops, Utah’s defense isn’t quite what it used to be — make that, what it's used to being. The Utes have had a problem with tackling.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham calls it a big-time issue.

“This has been a year atypical of what we are tackling-wise,” he said. “We are usually one of the better tackling teams in the conference and this year it was not the case.”

Complicating matters is why things have slipped. Whittingham is at a loss for an explanation.

“No reason. We work on it the same. We spend the same amount of time in practice, if not more this year,” he said. “And so I don’t know, we just kind of got into a funk tackling and have not been our usual selves in that regard.”

The No. 21 Utes enter Saturday’s game at No. 9 Colorado as the Pac-12’s sixth-ranked team in total defense (387.3 yards per game).

Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley said tackling has been more of a problem in recent weeks and not so much in the first half of the season.

“It’s a number of things but the bottom line is we’ve got to continue to work at in practice,” Scalley explained. “That’s something that we’ve done and we’ve continued to do. We’ve just got to make sure we’re doing better.”

BUFFS-N-STUFF: Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre noted that past meetings between the Buffaloes and Utes have been good, entertaining games. He doesn’t expect anything different this time around — even if Utah has won four straight in the series.

“They’ve been really physical football games and they’ve found a way to come out on top,” MacIntyre said. “And we’re hoping we can find a way this year.”

DIMICK’S DETERMINATION: Scalley said leading the nation in sacks is a credit to how hard senior Hunter Dimick has worked. The defensive end enters this week’s game with 14 sacks.

“It’s also a credit to the secondary. A lot of those sacks that he’s getting is due to those guys and quarterbacks not knowing where to go with the football,” Scalley said. “He’s always been a guy that’s prided himself on going every snap and I think he’s had more snaps than any defensive lineman on the team right now and it’s a credit to his work ethic.”

EXTRA POINTS: Colorado leads the series with Utah 31-28-3 . . . The Buffaloes hold a 15-12-1 advantage over the Utes in Boulder . . . Utah has been nationally-ranked for 10 consecutive weeks . . . The Utes are 25-28 in Pac-12 games.

Email: dirk@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer