Utah complements a rugged defense with a run-heavy offensive philosophy, relying on talented running back Devontae Booker to shoulder much of the load.
Heading into Saturday’s matchup at Oregon, with the Ducks having shown weakness in their typically stellar secondary, I pinpointed Utah’s ability — or inability — to attack with the pass. Establishing a passing threat would prove key to opening running lanes for Devontae Booker.
Evidently, offensive coordinators Aaron Roderick and Jim Harding saw it, too.
“Coming into the game, we really wanted to establish a good passing game, and that would ultimately help Booker out a lot,” quarterback Travis Wilson said in the postgame press conference, per UtahUtes.com.
Wilson certainly helped that effort, going 18-of-30 for 227 yards with four touchdowns. But in an unexpected twist, Booker helped his own cause with arguably the most impressive play of the game.
— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) September 27, 2015
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said the Utes began practicing this play “three or four weeks” prior.
Whittingham said the original plan wasn’t to unveil this “special” — “gadgets or trick plays,” the coach notes some would call it — specifically against Oregon. However, the opportunity presented itself.
With the opportunity, execution was key. Booker’s ability to do just that spurred the Ute coaching staff to even start practicing the play.
Taking a hand-off from Wilson, Booker breaks to the left as if running a sweep. Utah shows run up front, but unlike the maligned pop pass wherein linemen routinely move too far up field, blocks for a pass.
With Oregon lined up for a run, receiver Britain Covey’s breaks quickly from the slot and gets behind the deepest Duck. From there, it’s up to Devontae Booker to deliver the ball.
Whittingham said the throw wasn’t easy, as Booker had to sell the sweep to draw in Oregon’s defense. That means a limited window through which the running back could look downfield and see Covey breaking.
And, with that, there’s the pass itself. Whittingham’s confidence in Booker to throw the pass spurred the coaching staff to even implement the play.
“He was bragging all offseason and through fall camp about how good his arm was,” Whittingham said of Booker.
The Southpaw’s throw, almost like an alley-oop in basketball, is perfectly place to hit Covey in stride.
Weeks of preparation, just a few seconds of action, six points.