MAACO Bowl Las Vegas Breakdown: Utah Run Game vs. Bronco Defense

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Boise State Defensive Line/Rush Defense

The Boise State defense proved to be a catalyst to the Broncos success once again in 2010, anchored by a dominant defensive line that made running the football a tall order for opponents. Boise State finished the regular season ranked sixth nationally in rush defense, allowing just 103.5 yards per game. While the Bronco defense only allowed 259.25 total yards per game (fourth nationally), it was their 2.9 yards per rush allowed that really stifled opposing offenses.

Boise State's rush defense numbers inflated significantly following the final two games of the season however, as the Broncos allowed over 200 yards in back-to-back games (Nevada, 269; Utah State, 250). Through the first 10 games of the regular season Boise State allowed just 72.3 rushing yards per game, while holding two opponents to negative net rush yards (San Jose State, -12; Wyoming, -21).

The Bronco defensive front was a key contributor to Boise State's dominant rush defense, led by a trio of all-conference players. Defensive ends Ryan Winterswyk and Shea McClellin both played their way to first-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors, while defensive tackle Billy Winn was voted second-team All-WAC. The three combined for 29 tackles for loss on a Bronco defense that ranked second nationally with 8.33 tackles for loss per game.

Winterswyk (6-4, 270), a senior from La Habra, Calif. (La Habra HS), finished the season ranked fifth on the team in total tackles with 42. He also recorded 7.0 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. McClellin (6-3, 254), a junior from Caldwell, Idaho (Marsing HS), made life difficult for opposing offensive lines as the starting defensive end opposite Winterswyk. He finished the regular season ranked first in sacks (8.5) and second in tackles for loss (12.5), while also recording 26 tackles, two fumble recoveries, one interception return for touchdown and one forced fumble.

Winn (Jr., 6-4/288), a junior from Las Vegas, Nev. (Las Vegas HS), provided an anchor on the inside of the Boise State defensive line en route to also earning third-team All-America honors by the Associated Press. Winn finished the regular season with 27 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. He also recorded one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

The Broncos depth on defense runs much deeper than Winterswyk, McClellin and Winn, however, which will be called upon once again in trying to slow down the Utah offense. Boise State's defensive line has also enjoyed a highly productive season from players like Chase Baker, Tyrone Crawford and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe. Baker (6-1, 295), a junior defensive tackle from Rocklin, Calif. (Rocklin HS), was once again an unsung hero with 29 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks; acting as a plug in the middle of the defensive line.

Crawford (6-4, 275), a junior defensive end from Windsor, Ontario (Bakersfield College), enjoyed an outstanding first season with the Broncos which led him to honorable mention All-America honors from SI.com. Crawford led Boise State in tackles for loss (13.0), while also recording 29 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Tjong-A-Tjoe (6-3, 292), a defensive tackle from Amsterdam, Netherlands (Boise HS), also proved to be a difference maker in his first season of action with 23 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks on the year.

As a group, the Bronco defense will look to regain its old form in their final stand of the 2010 season. In Boise State's six games holding opponents to less than 100 yards rushing, the Broncos are 6-0 with three shutouts and an average win margin of 39.17 points. Their six wins when allowing over 100 rushing yards however, a 5-1 record and an average win margin of 32.6 points.

Utah Rushing Attack

Balance is the best way to describe the Utah offensive attack in 2010, which has been a key to the Utes' run to a 10-2 regular season record. Through 12 games this season, Utah's offensive play calling has been split nearly perfect with 51.6 percent of their plays being rushes. The Utes have also been balanced in scoring with 27 of 51 offensive touchdowns coming on the ground.

Utah enters the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas ranked 18th nationally in scoring offense (35.6 ppg), which is thanks in large part to a consistent run game. The Utes averaged 156.75 rushing yards per game, which ranks fourth in the Mountain West Conference. Utah topped the 100-yard rushing mark as a team in nine games this season. Of their three games held under the century mark, two resulted in losses (TCU, 51; Notre Dame, 71).

The Utes success on the ground has been a group effort all season long as Utah only saw an individual 100-yard rushing performance once this year. Matt Asiata achieved the feat with a 109 rushing yards in a 30-6 win at Wyoming. Asiata (5-11, 230), a senior from Sandy, Utah (Alta HS), led the Utes in carries (150), while accumulating 673 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the season.

Asiata split carries this season with Eddie Wide (5-10, 195), a senior from Las Vegas, Nev. (Cimarron Memorial HS). Wide recorded 143 carries on the year for a team-high 683 yards and 11 touchdowns. His average of 56.92 rushing yards per game also led Utah.

The Boise State defense will have more concerns than just Asiata and Wide, though, as quarterback Terrance Cain also poses a running threat for the Utes. Cain (5-11, 194), a senior from Houston, Texas (Blinn CC), has recorded 11 attempts for 66 yards and one rushing touchdown this season in limited action as a backup. He will be replacing sophomore Jordan Wynn in the bowl game, who suffered a season ending thumb injury.

Cain is far from inexperienced with a 9-1 record as a starter in two seasons. While he is certainly a pass first quarterback (51-of-72 for 610 yards and six touchdowns), Cain has the ability to make plays with his feet as well. In 2009 he finished third on the team in rushing with 87 carries for 318 yards and two scores.

As with any good rushing game, Utah's success on the ground wouldn't have come without a great deal of production from its offensive line however. Guard Caleb Schlauderaff, center Zane Taylor and tackle Tony Bergstrom lead the way for the Utes as all-conference selections this fall. Taylor (6-2, 309), a senior from Moab, Utah (Grand County HS), was named first team All-MWC, while Bergstrom (6-6, 310), a junior from Salt Lake City, Utah (Skyline HS), was voted second team All-MWC.

Schlauderaff (6-4, 302), a senior from Shelton, Wash. (Shelton HS), is the most decorated offensive lineman for Utah with a first team All-MWC selection and multiple All-America honors. Schlauderaff has been named a Walter Camp second team All-American, SI.com second team All-American and an Associated Press third team All-American.