Stanford-Utah Preview

The Associated Press

Earlier this week, Stanford coach David Shaw defended the honor of his program after it was accused of faking injuries.

Now he's tasked with defending against a quarterback who threw more interceptions in a game than any player in college football this year.

The fifth-ranked Cardinal look to post a 14th straight victory Saturday when they visit Utah, which needs Travis Wilson to bounce back from a six-interception performance.

Stanford (5-0, 3-0 Pac-12) survived its toughest test of the season with a 31-28 home victory over then-No. 15 Washington last Saturday despite being outgained 489-279. Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian later accused the Cardinal of faking injuries to slow down his club's uptempo attack.

Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner and linebacker Shayne Skov both were tended to in the fourth quarter for injuries. Shaw said Gardner was dealing with an arm injury and dehydration, while Skov hyperextended his surgically repaired left knee when he collided with teammate James Vaughters.

An MRI on Skov's knee showed no structural damage, according to the coach. Skov is expected to play Saturday, and Shaw adamantly backed both players.

"You're talking about two of the hardest working kids in the country, especially in our conference and to say that those guys are faking injuries to slow them down?" Shaw said. "That's disrespectful to everything that we believe in here."

The Cardinal own the nation's second-longest win streak behind No. 4 Ohio State as they get ready for their first Pac-12 meeting with Utah (3-2, 0-2). Shaw has tremendous respect for Wilson.

"They've got a great quarterback that I watched play in high school, he's a teammate of (offensive tackle) Kyle Murphy on our team," Shaw said. "The guy can stand in the pocket and see over everybody and make some throws."

Wilson, unfortunately, made six of those throws to the other team last Thursday, raising his season interception total to nine in a 34-27 loss to then-No. 12 UCLA. He completed 22 of 44 passes for 288 yards and two scores as he tried to battle through an illness.

"He was in bed the whole game day leading up to that game," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Tuesday. "He got sick, actually, the night before that, and hasn't gotten over it yet."

Stanford has forced just seven turnovers - the second-worst mark in the conference behind Utah's six.

The Cardinal's rushing attack finished with a season-low 191 yards last weekend and should be tested by an imposing Utah defensive front that yields 131.8 per game. The Utes have also registered a conference-high 18 sacks, with linebacker Jacoby Hale leading the way with 3.0.

The impressive work by the defensive line has come despite the departure of defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, a first-round pick by the Carolina Panthers this year.

"You sat here a year ago happy that Star Lotulelei had left but they're playing the same way inside, they're playing tough, they're playing physical, they're very active inside," Shaw said.

A healthier Wilson figures to help Utah improve a third-down offense that has converted 3 of 27 chances over its last two games.

"That's two games in a row that that's showed up, and it's a problem," Whittingham said. "We're paying close attention to it and trying to get it solved."

Stanford enters off its lowest scoring game of the season. Kevin Hogan threw for 100 yards - a career low over a full game as the passing attack sputtered.

"We missed opportunities throwing the ball, guys that were open," Shaw said. "We didn't make enough plays."

Utah is wary of Ty Montgomery, second in the nation with 33.5 yards per kickoff return. He had a 99-yard TD runback to open last Saturday's contest.

"Ty Montgomery is a tremendous kickoff returner for Stanford," Whittingham said. "He's a real weapon, and you saw him take the opening kickoff against Washington Saturday night. So, we've got to try to keep the ball out of his hands."

These teams last met in 1996 with Utah spoiling Stanford's season opener with a 17-10 victory.

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