Much has been made of the Troy Williams revenge factor in his first game against Washington, his old team. It’s the other Williams in Utah’s backfield who could give the Huskies fits Saturday afternoon.
SALT LAKE CITY — Much has been made of the Troy Williams revenge factor in his first game against Washington, his old team.
It’s the other Williams in Utah’s backfield who could give the Huskies fits Saturday.
Senior running back Joe Williams has rushed for 511 yards and five touchdowns in two games since returning from a one-month retirement, and the No. 4 Huskies (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12) know their top priority will be containing him — or trying to, anyway — in the showdown with No. 17 Utah (7-1, 4-1) at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
UW @ Utah, 12:30 p.m., FS1
“There’s no secrets to what they’re doing — they’re executing at a high level,” UW co-defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said of the Utes. “And the running back’s doing a good job finding the space that the blocks fit up. And if someone’s not there making a tackle, he is taking it to the house.”
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Williams, listed at 5 feet 11, 205 pounds, is a breakaway threat, having scored touchdown runs of 3, 43, 64 and 55 yards in Utah’s 52-45 victory at UCLA last week. He finished that game with a school-record 332 yards, the fourth-best total in Pac-12 history.
If there is a leak in UW’s defense — if — it just might be in the run game.
True, the Huskies in back-to-back weeks shut down Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and Oregon’s Royce Freeman, the Pac-12’s top two rushers in 2015.
But the Huskies also have allowed several long touchdown runs this season — two on the road at Arizona, and another in the second half against Oregon State.
Are we nitpicking? Perhaps. But it’s something to be mindful of against a back as explosive as Joe Williams.
“You’re right. That’s a big thing for this week,” Kwiatkowski said. “We cannot let this guy — he’s going to get yards and he’s going to make plays. We’ve got to do a good job of keeping him in the chute and not giving up the long ball.”
Certainly, UW’s defense will try to put the game on the right arm of Troy Williams, the junior quarterback who left UW after the 2014 season because he felt Chris Petersen didn’t give him a fair opportunity.
After a year at a junior college, Troy Williams won the starting job — and was voted a team captain — in his first season with the Utes. He’s thrown seven touchdown passes against five interceptions. He’s also rushed for five scores, and his running ability could be a tipping point for Utah’s read-option offense.
“He’s definitely a threat,” Kwiatkowski said. “They pick and choose when for him to pull it and run it, and it’s something you’ve got to be prepared for. I think not running him all the time makes it harder to defend because he sort of lulls you to sleep and all of a sudden he pulls one out.”