Pac-12's best rushing offense ready to finish regular season strong

Ryan Kostecka

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL/GAME BREAKDOWN

Scouting the rush offense: Running back Zack Moss should be a Pac-12 first-teamer when the accolades come out at the end of the season — and that doesn’t spell good news for Colorado.

Moss has been on a tear this season, and is coming off his best game of the season in which he rushed for a career-high 203 yards and two scores in Utah’s 35-7 victory over Arizona. On the season, moss has rushed for a career-high 1,158 and 14 touchdowns, averaging 6.4 yards per carry.

As a team, the Utes are coming off their best performance of the season when they rushed for 297 yards last week. But according to Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, the performance last week was a preview of what’s been coming this season thanks to improved play by the offensive line.

“We started out with three new faces in there and it was a situation where it took them a few weeks to come together and gel,” Whittingham said of his offensive line. “That is a position that requires time together, getting those five guys to work in sync together — it takes time. Going into the season with the experience we had at various positions, I would say the offensive line has made the most progress."

Despite the success Utah has been finding on the ground, Colorado has vastly improved in that area as the season has gone on.

The Buffaloes are eighth in the Pac-12 in rushing defense, giving up 148.73 yards per game, 4.45 yards per carry and 18 touchdowns on the year. But over the previous few weeks, a small change in scheme has made a massive difference.

“They certainly have been really good on defense the last couple of weeks and they have added some more exotic pressure packages than what they had earlier in the season,” Whittingham said of the Buffaloes. “They have played really well in those two wins.”

On defense, Nate Landman is the man to watch as the leader of the defense and one of the best linebackers in the Pac-12. His 104 tackles on the season rank third in the conference and 15 overall in the nation.

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Nov 17, 2018; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes linebacker Rick Gamboa (32) and linebacker Nate Landman (53) combine on a tackle of Utah Utes running back Armand Shyne (6) in the second quarter at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

But with Landman and co. expected to focus on Moss, the Utes have great compliments in a multitude of backup running backs, led by Devin Brumfield (256 yards) and Devonta’e Henry-Cole (5.6 yards per carry. Also a threat out of the backfield is quarterback Tyler Huntley, who has 228 rushing yards and five scores on the season.

Utah hasn’t yet needed to throw the ball to win games as the rushing game has been sensational. Don’t expect that to change this week.

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