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Terrance Cain the silent X factor in Utes bowl game

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 21 2010 12:24 a.m. MST

Utah quarterbacks Jordan Wynn, left, and Terrance Cain send in signals for third string quarterback Griff Robles as the Utes beat San Jose.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

A lot of people want to talk to Terrance Cain these days. After all, the newly promoted Utah quarterback is the X factor heading into Wednesday's Las Vegas Bowl, where the Utes will face powerhouse Boise State.

What's he thinking after pulling sideline duty for most of the season? Is he up to the challenge? How does it feel to go from bench to hot seat?

Everybody wants to know.

Just don't ask Cain about it. He can run and pass and win games, but he's not much of a talker. Ask him to run the spread offense on the field; just don't ask him to tell you what's on his mind.

"I've got to warn you; he's very quiet," Utah sports information director Liz Abel told me. "He doesn't have much to say."

This isn't the best news I ever heard heading into an interview. Talk is a writer's lifeblood. Cain and Abel — surely a meeting with Biblical implications — met shortly before I showed up for practice so she could urge him to be more verbose.

I could tell you that Cain filled my notebook, regaling me with stories and quotes. But I'd be lying. Not that he's unfriendly — quite the opposite. He was unfailingly polite and frequently flashed a winning smile. He even talked some; he just didn't have much to say, other than a little coachspeak.

"I was never the hype guy," he says.

Terrance Cain is to journalists what Everest is to climbers and what cold fusion is to scientists. Terrell Owens, he's not. In an age of shameless self-promotion, he is even a little refreshing.

But about that interview ... This guy is naturally quiet, but he's also a little media wary. "Just seems like the media is always trying to stir something up," he says.

Such as a quote?

"He's opened up since he's been here," says head coach Kyle Whittingham. "When he first got here he was extremely quiet."

This is an improvement?

Cain is so quiet that even when he was in the starting lineup, few reporters bothered to go to his locker room after games. Imagine no one bothering to talk to the starting quarterback — the winning starting quarterback?

"People stopped talking to him," said one observer. "He won't return calls. He doesn't talk. It doesn't matter if it's ESPN or a local paper. He just doesn't have much to say."

Cain has heard all of this before. He's even been coached to talk. "We've talked to him about it," says Whittingham. "It's important for a quarterback to talk. It's a leadership role by virtue of the position. That's something that needs to be a part of the equation."

"We'd like a quarterback to be more vocal," says quarterback coach Brian Johnson. "I've talked to him about it a couple of times, but guys can see if it's forced."

Cain is easily the most intriguing figure of Wednesday's game. With an injury to starting quarterback Jordan Wynn in the final regular-season game, Cain moved into the lineup for the Las Vegas Bowl. Just like that, a guy who didn't play a down in four of Utah's 12 games and barely played in four others, faces a team that came within one missed field goal of an unbeaten season and possibly playing for the national championship.

"At this stage I'm just excited to play again," says Cain.

Cain came to Utah from Texas's Blinn Community College almost by accident. Ute assistant coach Morgan Scalley was recruiting a pair of wide receivers at Blinn when he began to notice the guy was throwing the ball to them.

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