clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Stingy sack exchange: Utes don’t allow them and Anae is racking them up

Utah is excelling on both sides of the equation as Pac-12 opener at USC approaches

Utah Utes defensive end Bradlee Anae (6) sacks Northern Illinois Huskies quarterback Ross Bowers (12) during second half action in the University of Utah versus Northern Illinois football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.
Utah Utes defensive end Bradlee Anae (6) sacks Northern Illinois Huskies quarterback Ross Bowers (12) during second half action in the University of Utah versus Northern Illinois football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Zero. Zip. Nada. The 10th-ranked Utah Utes are the only team in the nation to play three games and not give up a single sack, thus far.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the success is a combination of protection by the offensive line and the play of starting quarterback Tyler Huntley. The senior has been especially effective as the Utes enter their Pac-12 opener Friday at USC with a 3-0 non-conference record.

There have been a handful of times that a quarterback not as athletic as Tyler would have gone down,” Whittingham said. “So Tyler has done a nice job of having pocket awareness, sensing the rush and feeling it and getting himself out of some jams, — not only to get out of a jam and run, but also he has gotten out of a jam and thrown the ball and found receivers which is good.”

Huntley has completed 42 of 54 passes for 602 yards and four touchdowns. He also has 99 yards rushing and a score.

However, it’s Huntley’s completion percentage (77.8 percent) that ranks among the nation’s elite. He’s second in the Pac-12 and fourth in the country.

“Credit the offensive line for holding up in pass protection most of the time. We don’t have a sack yet, but we very well could or should have had a few. It is a matter of Tyler making good decisions,” Whittingham said. “It is a matter of the receivers making very few drops. If we make all the catches we should have made, he’s probably way over 80 percent, but I guess you don’t always catch every ball you should catch.

“He has been just phenomenal. We haven’t done a ton of throwing, averaging about 18 a game, but the real key is that he has really embraced what we are doing offensively,” continued Whittingham, who added that Huntley and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig are on the same wavelength.

The Utes have been shorthanded in going three straight games without giving up a sack for the first time since 2015. They’ve been without starting center Orlando Umana and right guard Johnny Maea for the past two outings because of injuries.

Utah’s success with sacks is also found on defense. Senior defensive end Bradlee Anae had three in a win over Northern Illinois on Sept. 7. The 2017 Pac-12 sacks leader is currently in position to repeat. In addition, he currently has 20 career sacks, 9.5 behind school-record holder Hunter Dimick.

“Definitely I want to leave here with the career record and hopefully have a shot at the single-season record (18.5 by Nate Orchard). I’m just trying to leave a mark as best as I can here at the University of Utah,” Anae said. “I didn’t come here just to be another player.”

Anae made it clear he’s after the unofficial title as “Mayor of Sack Lake City.” It’s a moniker that Dimick had in 2016.

“It’s exciting to get your numbers to where guys like Hunter Dimick and be even considered the ‘Mayor of Sack Lake City.’ So it’s just a blessing and I’m just grateful,” Anae said before last week’s game against Idaho State.

Whittingham acknowledged such accolades are possible.

“It is going to take some work, but Bradlee has a chance to threaten that all-time sack record here at Utah. He is definitely within reach,” Whittingham said. “But he will have to have a pretty good year, which we hope he does. He’s off to a pretty good start.”

• • •

No. 10 Utah (3-0) at USC (2-1)

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Friday, 7 p.m. (MT)

TV: FS1

Radio: ESPN 700AM