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Foster Farms Bowl: Utes focusing in on Indiana

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been a while since the 19th-ranked Utah Utes have won a football game. They haven’t experienced the thrill of victory since a 49-26 decision at Arizona State on Nov. 10.

Losses to Oregon (30-28) and Colorado (27-22) followed before the large gap leading up to the Foster Farms Bowl against Indiana on Dec. 28.

Junior quarterback Troy Williams said preparations for the latter have been like fall camp. The Utes are ready to bang some heads with someone else.

“We’re real hungry just to get out there and play,” Williams said. “It’s been a while since we’ve played a game. So we’re blessed to be in a position to be able to play a bowl game.”

The Utes (8-4) take on an Indiana team with a 6-6 record. The Hoosiers went 4-5 in Big Ten play. They defeated Michigan State, Maryland, Rutgers and Purdue, but lost to Ohio State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Michigan.

At season’s end, head coach Kevin Wilson resigned amidst allegations of player mistreatment and was replaced by assistant Tom Allen.

Despite the switch, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham isn’t expecting any wholesale changes because of the short period of time.

Besides, it may not be necessary.

“They’re very good. I would have to say that they’re comparable to a very good Pac-12 team,” Whittingham said. “They’re very physical up front, and that’s very apparent on film — is the physicality on both sides of the line of scrimmage.”

Whittingham noted that the Hoosiers also have a 1,000-yard rusher, a linebacker who leads the Big Ten in tackles and a wide-open offense that is difficult to defend.

“We’re learning more about Indiana and who they are,” said Utah offensive lineman Isaac Asiata. “They’re better than their record shows. That’s how I feel and respect them as such.”

The Hoosiers have a two-time first-team All-American in senior offensive lineman Dan Feeney. He’s a big reason why they rank third in the Big Ten in total offense (433.1 ypg). Junior quarterback Richard Lagow passed for 3,174 yards and 18 touchdowns. Senior receivers Ricky Jones and Mitchel Paige were named all-conference and junior running back Devine Redding has rushed for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

On defense, Indiana has a force in linebacker Tegray Scales. The junior leads the Big Ten in tackles with 116. Teammate Marcus Oliver, who is also a junior linebacker, is the NCAA’s active leader in forced fumbles with 12. Junior cornerback Rashard Fant has topped the Big Ten in pass breakups the past two seasons.

The Hoosiers, obviously, present some challenges. It won’t be the only hurdles, however, that the Utes will have to overcome at Levi’s Stadium. They lost three of their final four games, and two of the setbacks came against top 10 teams.

“It wasn’t like we were playing ‘Sisters of the Poor.’ We were playing quality teams and we hung in there. We were close,” Whittingham said. “Nobody cares about that, but our guys fought to the bitter end. We just didn’t finish like we would have liked to in the win-loss column.”

And that, in itself, should provide more than enough motivation for the Utes to finish out strong.

“With the disappointing way that things turned out, as far as the conference race, it gives them incentive to end the season on a positive note,” Whittingham said.