Physical Utah finds its identity heading into Arizona game

Utah's Zack Moss runs for a touchdown against Stanford on Saturday night. Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Utes take pride in being physical on both sides

Utah hopes it revealed its true self in a 40-21 win over No. 14 Stanford on Saturday night.

The Utes ran twice as many times as they threw the ball, gaining 222 yards on 43 carries against the physical Cardinal. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was asked after the game if he thought the performance on offensive was reflective of the team's identity.

"I hope so," he said. "Exactly what I told them in the locker room is that's who we are and we need to be that team next week."

Next week gets here fast, as Utah returns home to play Arizona on Friday night. The Wildcats are coming off a 24-17 home victory against Cal.

Utah (3-2 overall, 1-2 Pac-12) is trying to get back into the South division race after losing conference games to Washington and Washington State. To do so, the Utes want to rely on their usual strengths -- run the ball, stop the run. Toughness. Be physical.

That's something that wasn't evident early in the season but definitely was against Stanford. The Utes held the Bryce Love-less Cardinal to 42 yards on 28 carries. Meanwhile, Utah running back Zack Moss rushed 10 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns.

NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang noted after that performance: "As he has throughout his career, Moss showed off the light feet and quick change of direction one might expect from a relative of former University of Miami and NFL wideout Santana and Sinorice Moss.

"The latest NFL prospect from the Moss family, however, is much stouter than his predecessors, showing good balance and power through contact, as well as impressive agility and speed for a 5-9, 215 pounder who entered the game ranked sixth on NFLDraftScout.com's board among junior running backs."

Moss, who rushed for 1,173 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, has scored a touchdown in each game this season. He has 549 yards in five games, averaging 5.8 per carry.

Utah rushed for 204 yards in its previous game against Washington State.

"I think we've been very smart on offense the last two games, even though we came up short against Washington State, I realize that," Whittingham said. "I think we are getting smarter and more of an identity offensively."

Utah attempted 21 passes on Saturday night, completing 17. The Utes won't be looking to fool Arizona on Friday night. They will try to run and run and run -- and also note that Utah is third in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 75.4 yards per game.

So, can the Wildcats win a battle in the trenches?

"You look at these six games, they never quit. They play hard to the end of every game," UA coach Kevin Sumlin said after Saturday night's 24-17 win over Cal.

"They have not always done everything right. ... The thing that has given us a chance in all of these games is their effort. As long as we continue to have that effort, we're going to have a chance to win games."

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