Devontae Booker anchors No. 19 Utah's rush
Devontae Booker doesn't elaborate on his recent success, mostly saying he just runs hard.
That tactic seems to work just fine for the Utah junior, who has rushed for an average of 187.7 yards in the last three games for the No. 19 Utes.
His last outing was a 229-yard, three-touchdown eruption against Oregon State last Thursday night, sending Utah to a 29-23 double-overtime victory over the Beavers in Corvallis.
''Every time my name was called I just took it and ran with it, ran hard and fought for extra yards,'' he said.
Those yards pushed Booker into a tie for fifth on Utah's single-game best list. It also was the top rushing performance in the Pac-12 so far this season.
''That guy is a beast,'' Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said. ''I think he's the best back in the Pac-12.''
Although he's started just two games for the Utes, Booker ranks second in the conference for yards rushing per game with nearly 124. Only Javorius Allen of USC has more with an average of 129.9 per game.
Booker has no doubt solidified his job as starter for Utah (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) which hosts the No. 20 Trojans (5-2, 4-1) on Saturday night. Allen and Booker should both have the attention of the opposing defenses.
''It will be very pivotal,'' Whittingham said about the showdown between the two backs. ''Just about every week, most weeks, football comes down to stopping the run and being able to run. We've got two teams doing a nice job. I think we're rushing for a few more yards per week than they are.''
Indeed, Utah is averaging nearly 211 yards rushing a game, second only to No. 6 Oregon in the Pac-12, while USC is averaging 189.3. Allen has rushed for a total of 909 yards with eight touchdowns, while Booker has 742 total yards and seven scores.
Booker was a standout at Grant Union High in Sacramento, California, gaining 2,884 yards and scoring 45 touchdowns his senior year. He originally committed to Washington State, but ended up at American River Community College in Northern California before landing in Salt Lake City.
He essentially supplanted Bubba Poole on Utah's depth chart when he ran for 178 yards and a touchdown in a 28-27 loss to Washington State back on Sept. 27. That was Utah's lone loss of the season.
''I guess after the Washington State, they knew I was the main dude - that I could carry the load no matter how many carries they gave me,'' he told reporters this week during preparations for the Trojans.
The Utes are off to their best start since the 2010 season, when they opened 8-0. They haven't been ranked this high since Nov. 7, 2010, when they climbed to No. 15.
''We're 5-1, and you are who and what your record says you are, so I think we're doing a pretty good job. Certainly got things to work on, that's obvious,'' Whittingham said. ''We're playing well in a lot of areas. We have some deficiencies that we're trying to address. I don't think there is any team in the country that can say `we're playing well in every single facet of the game.'''
Booker's big breakout came against the Beavers, when he ran for touchdowns of 1, 15 and 19 yards. Afterward he called his numbers ''video-game stats.''
''It was just pretty much myself just running hard. They gave me the ball, I just took it and ran with it. Got in the end zone, scored, end of story,'' Booker said.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley certainly was impressed.
''He's really good. He's hard-nosed,'' Riley said, adding: ''Boy, he competes like crazy.''