For obvious reasons, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was pleased with how his team performed in Saturday's 50-0 win over Wyoming.
"I'm proud of the way the players executed and how they played," he said. "The storyline in the football game was our players' execution."
A cloud of controversy, however, cast a shadow on an otherwise bright showing by the Utes.
Whittingham's decision to attempt an onside kick with a 43-0 lead in the third quarter drew an obscene hand gesture from Cowboys coach Joe Glenn.
On Sunday afternoon, Whittingham said he regretted making the call.
"My emotions got the best of me, and after thinking about it, I wouldn't have done it in hindsight" he explained. "But emotions were running high as you could tell both from what we did and the reaction on the other team. That's the nature of sports, I guess. At times your emotions get in the way of sound decision-making.
"You've got to guard against that," Whittingham continued. "I'm not making excuses. I'm just saying that was what happened."
Whittingham noted that there where a lot of dynamics involved in the situation and running the score up wasn't one of them. He pointed out that the Utes ran the ball 18-of-19 plays in the fourth quarter and took their starters out.
Even so, things didn't sit well with Wyoming running back Devin Moore. The junior told the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle that the Cowboys won't forget what happened on Saturday. The teams meet in Laramie next season.
"Last year (a 31-15 Wyoming win), we got up on them pretty good in the third quarter and we took it easy on them. It doesn't look like they were trying to do that same. We will remember that," Moore said. "When it comes time, I hope Glenn is ... I don't know what adjective to use about their coach ... I hope he does the same thing and we can run the score up on them like (Whittingham) did us."
The Utes led 10-0 after one quarter and 40-0 at halftime. In the second half, they added a field goal in the third quarter and a touchdown in the fourth.
Utah players and coaches came out extremely motivated, in large part by remarks Glenn had made to Wyoming boosters earlier in the week. He guaranteed a victory in Salt Lake City.
It didn't happen.
Utah avenged last season's setback in Laramie in a big way.
The Utes dominated the Cowboys in total yardage (505-122), first downs (22-12) and sacks (6-1).
Defensive coordinator Gary Andersen, whose squad forced five turnovers and allowed Wyoming to convert on just 2-of-13 third-down situations, chalked it up to a couple of factors.
"The guarantee thing just kept stirring the pot a little bit," he said. "Obviously last year was a factor, and the comments that were made were a factor."
It added up to a sixth straight victory for the Utes (7-3 overall, 4-2 in Mountain West Conference play), who clinched a winning record for the fifth consecutive season.
"If you're a competitor when you get in that situation you want to come out, compete and play hard every single play," Andersen said. "But to get a little bit of extra momentum ... "
Defensive tackle Gabe Long, who made three sacks, considered Glenn's guarantee the equivalent of having someone spit in your face.
It was disrespectful.
Quarterback Brian Johnson noted it wasn't about love or hate but respect.
"We came out fired up and ready to play," he added. " ... We brought our 'A' game."
And that, Whittingham said, was the bottom line.
"No statement," he insisted. "We just played well."
Larry Baber of the Poinsettia Bowl took notice. He attended the game and told reporters he was "very impressed" by Utah.A victory over New Mexico Saturday or at BYU the following week could pretty much lock up a bowl date for Utah with Navy in San Diego unless hometown SDSU manages to run the table. The Utes, however, would likely secure the invitation without serious debate with two more wins. The Las Vegas Bowl also remains a possibility, depending on how things play out down the stretch. And so, too, could the New Mexico Bowl. A selection committee representative will be on hand for this weekend's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
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