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The defensive line’s play will be key for WSU to beat Utah

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Utah will try to keep WSU’s offense off the field. Their passing attack is mediocre at best. It’s going to be up to the defensive line to have their best game of the season to get Minshew and Co. back on the field.

NCAA Football: Eastern Washington at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack.

Sun Tzu

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When you’ve been coaching one team as long as Kyle Whittingham has, you tend to build a reputation for doing certain things really well. Building a stacked defense? You bet. An offense that features a bruising, superb running back? Check.

A good passing game? Weeeeeeelllllll ... not so much.

Go all the way back to 2011 when the Utah Utes jumped ship from the Mountain West to join the Pac-12 and take a look at the quarterbacks that have played for them from then to now. The list of Jordan Wynn, Travis Wilson, Troy Williams and Tyler Huntley leaves a lot to be desired, to say the least. If I had to pick a “best season” in the now eight seasons Utah has been in the conference ... Travis Wilson in 2014 only because he didn’t really turn the ball over.

This is all a long, roundabout way of saying that there have been plenty of things to worry about with the Utes but a strong passing game that could win them games isn’t one of them. Like previous years with Devontae Booker and John White though, the Ute’s Zach Moss can and will run you over on the ground. A year after stacking up nearly 1,200 yards on the ground, Moss is averaging better than six yards a touch through three games (though he picked up a bulk of his yards against Weber State) with Utah continuing to key their offense through the ground game.

So why are we talking about the Utes offense in a game they’re playing a team that averages more than 41 points a game? Because they are going to use that running game to extend drives and keep that offense off the field.

WSU’s offense vs. Utah’s defense is an interesting match-up, no doubt. But it’s going to be a lot less interesting if WSU’s possessions are cut down by Utah extending drives that end in some kind of points.

The Washington State defense, then, must be effective at stopping the running game. To do that, the defensive line needs to have their best game of the season. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has used blitzes to supplement what has been a pretty poor pass rush so far this season. But without many passes to ... pass rush for, keeping Zach Moss contained will be of the utmost importance this Saturday.

Their presence may not show up on the stat sheet but Taylor Comfort, Nick Begg, Nnamdi Oguayo, and company need to do just about everything right Saturday afternoon. Fill the right gaps, get a hand on Moss to slow him down, occasionally make your way into the backfield to pick up a TFL. To be sure, the main objective will be opening room for the more athletic linebackers, the best unit on the defense, to make plays and tackles.

The defensive line has a tall task ahead of them this weekend. They know Utah’s objective will be ball control, trying to keep Gardner Minshew firmly planted on the sideline. But if the defense, keyed by the line, can keep Utah to five-and-six play drives, the Washington State offense will get all the opportunities they need to rack up points and send everyone to their post-game Homecoming tailgate happy.

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Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.

General George S. Patton

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The defensive line, the most important person against Utah.