Utah brings explosive offense to Michigan

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — When Dave Christensen became Utah's seventh offensive coordinator in seven years, his goals were pretty simple: Cut down on turnovers and perfect the Utes' up-tempo approach.

Well, the numbers are eye-opening.

■Utah has yet to give up the ball in two games (2-0). The Utes had 25 turnovers last season.

■Utah is third nationally in scoring (57.5 points).

That offense will be on display at Michigan Stadium today as Utah takes on Michigan.

"They're explosive offensively," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "The two backs are interchangeable and for the style offense, they do a nice job of seeing holes. (Quarterback) Travis Wilson has done a tremendous job. He's second (nationally) in pass efficiency and gets the ball out of his hands pretty quickly.

"They're high tempo. They want to snap the ball quickly, and they want to try and see if you're disorganized defensively."

The 6-foot-7 Wilson, who was 4-5 last season with 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, has completed 63 percent of his passes this year for six touchdowns and no interceptions. He has go-to targets in receivers Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott. And, tailbacks Bubba Poole and Devontae Booker have combined for 241 yards and three touchdowns.

Wilson told Salt Lake City local reporters the Utes feel confident heading into Michigan Stadium because of the high-powered offense. While Michigan has allowed 80 yards rushing through three games, the secondary has shown holes.

In a 31-0 loss at Notre Dame, the Irish had 262 passing yards but only 54 yards rushing.

"I think this week is going to be a great advantage for us and our tempo game," Wilson told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I know their offense likes to huddle up, so I think it's a great advantage for us and for our defense as well — they get a little rest between plays. But for our offense, we've got to keep the tempo up and running our plays and see if we can get them unlined and out of formation.

"Obviously they have good defenders, and they stick with their wide receivers a lot. But I think Kenneth and Dres will do a great job of getting open. They always find ways of getting open. Not a lot of people can hang with Dres, as well. So that's going to be a big test for them. I don't see them shutting down both Kenneth and Dres."

For Michigan, it will be absolutely vital to rely on the run game to control the clock and keep Utah's offense off the field.

The Wolverines are averaging 242 yards rushing, and Derrick Green has led the way averaging 110.7 yards. He has three touchdowns, while De'Veon Smith (7.9 yards a carry) has two.

"We've got to be able to run the football," Hoke said. "When we take shots, we have to execute."

And, the offensive line has to protect quarterback Devin Gardner and open holes for the running backs. While the line appears improved over last season, it isn't clear is has established consistency.

Ad that's what Utah's Nate Orchard, who plays end and outside linebacker, is banking on. He has 2½ sacks and three tackles for loss this season.

"He can cause you problems," Hoke said. "Obviously he's a playmaker for them so they're putting him in position to make plays."

Utah at Michigan

Kickoff: 3:30 today, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor

TV/radio: ABC/WWJ

Records: Utah 2-0, Michigan State 2-1

Line: Michigan by 4

Series: Tied 1-1 (Utah 25-23, Aug. 30, 2008)