The No. 17 Utah Utes will be without leading receiver Dres Anderson for the remainder of the season, the school announced on Wednesday. Anderson suffered an undisclosed knee injury.
The senior from Riverside, CA was leading the team in both receiving yards (355) and receiving touchdowns (4) this season. During Saturday’s 24-21 win against the USC Trojans, Anderson recorded three catches for 30 yards. He is currently projected as a third round pick according to NFLDraftScout.com, and is rated the seventh best wide receiver overall. He finishes fifth on the school’s all-time receiving yards list with 2,077 receiving yards.
While it’s unfortunate news for the program, Utah should be fine considering they rely heavily on their run game and their run defense to win games. The Utes are currently 97th in the country in passing yards per game, which ranks 11th in the Pac-12. They possess the third-best rushing offense in the conference, and are also ranked third in the Pac-12 in total defense.
Those numbers will be put to the test over the course of the next four weeks, as Utah is entering the toughest stretch of their schedule The Utes will travel to Tempe to take on No. 14 Arizona State this Saturday, then face off against No. 5 Oregon, Stanford, and No.12 Arizona.
Utah’s only loss this year came at the hands of Washington State, which seems preposterous considering the Utes have already taken down both UCLA and USC since that defeat. The team has allowed the second-fewest points per game in the conference (21.6), trailing only Stanford.
If Utah is going to come out of this stretch alive, they can not depend on quarterback Travis Wilson. They are going to have to lean on their rushing attack.
Devontae Booker ranks 16th nationally in rushing yards per game and his role will likely increase after losing Anderson. Only twice this season has Utah failed to rush for at least 190 yards as a team. Meanwhile, the passing game has slowly regressed this season, failing to throw for over 200 yards in the past four games.
Moving forward, Utah will have to focus on their passing defense. They do not match up will against teams who like to air it out. Utah is currently 98th in the country in passing yards allowed per game. Against teams such as ASU, Oregon and Arizona, Utah will struggle mightily if they don’t fix their issues in the secondary.
The loss of Dres Anderson will certainly sting, but the passing game has not been the blueprint for the Utes’ success this season.
No. 17 Utah is set to take on No. 14 Arizona State this Saturday at 11 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.
*Section Photo credit to Stephen Dunn, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Chris Nicoll, USA Today Sports.