San Diego State and Utah have identical 1-1 records, but when they face each other Saturday the clear favorite will be the No. 14-ranked Utes.
Head coach Brady Hoke knows that’s a motivating factor for his team.
“They’ll know. I don’t have to remind them, I don’t think,” he said of the 7 p.m. contest in Salt Lake City.
SDSU beat Utah 33-31 in a thrilling triple-overtime game last year, but the 2022 Utes are coming off a 73-7 drubbing of Southern Utah, and a far-closer loss to another top-ranked team, Florida, in their season opener.
As stirring as that win was, the Aztecs played it in their 2021 home-away-from-home, Carson, while their new stadium was being built. Utah will have a true home-field advantage at their long-time home, Rice-Eccles Stadium, noted safety Patrick McMorris.
“My brother coaches there and he talks about the atmosphere a lot,” the senior said of his older sibling, Malik. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere to play in and compete versus a team that has changed a lot since we played them.”
One person they’ll be looking out for is Utah’s quarterback, Cameron Rising, who sparked the rally that forced last year’s game into OT. The Utes went on to win the Pac-12 championship.
“He’s a whole different animal and he does a tremendous job,” said head coach Brady Hoke. “… He can run and get out of problems, extend plays. He’s a really good football player.”
As for the Aztecs, Hoke cited one major area of improvement in two games – counting 11 missed tackles against Idaho State versus 35 in their first game against Arizona.
But issues still troubling him include forcing turnovers – the team has to “get the ball back for our offense and we haven’t done that much,” he said.
Third- and fourth-down conversions also concern him. The Aztecs were 6 for 21 last week in doing so. Running back Jordyn Byrd feels the urgency.
“When we first get the ball, we can’t go three and out. That’s definitely one thing that we
have to fix,” the senior said.