Utah Utes football: Colossal Pac-12 opener faces Utes after unimpressive start

Published: Saturday, Sept. 3 2011 5:00 p.m. MDT

John White and the Utes have a huge task ahead of them.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Saturday's Pac-12 opener between Utah and USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum carries a lot of historical significance and intrigue.

Over the summer, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott noted that there would be "a lot of national interest and attention" in the expanded conference's initial league match-up.

Folks, he added, are anxious to see how the Utes stack up against the Trojans.

It'll be quite a test, obviously, for the original BCS busters in their automatic-qualifying conference debut.

The added importance of it all, however, is lost on Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. He's not putting any extra emphasis on it, nor is he buying into the notion that it may be among the biggest contests in program history. After all, it does count as just one game in the Pac-12 standings.

As such, Whittingham noted that the Utes plan to get ready, go down there and "hopefully play a good ballgame."

And it won't involve an altered approach, or anything like that.

"No different preparation from any game we've ever had," Whittingham said. "We're going to go about our business the same way."

After opening the season with a less-than-impressive 27-10 win over Montana State, Utah is eager to play better this week.

"Overall if we want to win a few more games this year we better clean up a lot of things," Whittingham said. "It won't be good enough and so we've got a lot of work to do between now and next Saturday."

Topping the "to-do" list is establishing a more productive throw game. The Utes managed just 101 yards passing against Montana State. Quarterback Jordan Wynn insists his surgically repaired shoulder felt great all night, even after enduring a couple of hard sacks along the way. He completed 15-of-23 passes, but none longer than 15 yards.

"We did some good things. It wasn't a horrible game," Wynn said. "We won, but not our best showing."

Utah jumped out to a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter before settling for a 17-point win.

"We weren't as focused as we needed to be, I guess. So we'll fix that. We'll correct it and be ready for whoever we've got next week," said offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom. "It was a good way to see our weaknesses, see what we have to fix. So, I mean, that's a huge positive for us."

The Utes, thus, aren't discouraged.

"Obviously there was mistakes and stuff," said linebacker Brian Blechen. "But I just think that's first-game nerves and stuff. So we're glad to get the win, the first game is out of the way, and from now on we'll just be rolling."

Blechen got off to a good start with two interceptions.

Tight end Dallin Rogers also had a strong showing with five catches in the opener. He agreed with Blechen on why the Utes weren't so sharp overall against the Bobcats.

"I think a lot of it has to do with being the first game. But I think this year, what sets us apart, is I think we're more of a team and we all play for each other," Rogers said. "(Thursday) was positive. We came out real strong and I think that's a huge, huge step coming from last year. We just have to finish. But I feel it was a positive step in the right direction."

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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