Utah Utes football: First Pac-12 home game is meaningful
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — There's a buzz up on the hill. Utah's first Pac-12 home game, Saturday against the Washington Huskies, is proving to be a big deal.
"It's going to be an electric atmosphere," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who noted that the Utes need to take care of business this week the way they did prior to their 54-10 win at BYU on Sept. 17.
That, he added, will require a great week of practice. It'll also require preparing with the same mindset, mentality and focus.
Quarterback Jordan Wynn acknowledged the Utes have embraced the buzz about the historic game, but are determined just to have fun with it and not look too much into it.
"It's exciting for everyone around and in the program," he said. "It's a great opportunity."
And one the team doesn't want to squander.
"I'm sure a lot of people will be there and they're all excited to see how we perform in the Pac-12 the first time at home," Wynn said before noting that the real focus is on Washington.
The Utes, he added, have settled into the task at hand and not all the "first time" talk about being in the Pac-12.
"As you get into the season, you really start forgetting about all that stuff and just kind of take it week-by-week," Wynn said.
POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE: Utah will celebrate its inaugural Pac-12 home game in a variety of ways. Pregame activities include fireworks near the conference logos on the field. At the first timeout, commissioner Larry Scott will be presented with a commemorative game ball by Utah athletics director Chris Hill and interim president Lorris Betz.
WATCHING WYNN: While much has been made of Wynn's shoulder, long-time friend and starting right guard Sam Brenner insists all is well.
"He's great. I'm not worried about him at all," Brenner said. "I did play with him in high school (Oceanside, Calif.) and I've known him for a long time, so I think he's doing great."
As for Wynn's shoulder?
"He'll be fine," Brenner said.
INJURY UPDATE: Right tackle Tony Bergstrom and tight end Jake Murphy, who suffered knee injuries against BYU, are questionable for Saturday's game.
"It's a day-to-day deal," Whittingham said. "We'll see how they progress."
Fullback Luke Matthews, who did not play against BYU because of a shoulder injury, is back this week.
LEAGUE LEADERS: Cornerback Conroy Black was pleased to learn that the Utes lead the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense with a 114.7 rating.
"We know we can get the job done," he said. "Every week we have that same mentality."
As for having four new starters in the secondary this season, Black is hopeful that topic has been exhausted.
"I hope that's over with now with all the questions and everything," Black said. "I hope we proved ourselves to the outside and everything. We all know inside that we can get the job done."
The Washington game, he added, is another opportunity to show the nation what Utah's defense can do.
The Utes enter the game as the nation's co-leaders in fumble recoveries with eight. They top the Pac-12 in turnovers caused (12) and turnover margin (3.00), and are tied for the lead in red zone defense (50 percent).
EXTRA POINTS: Kickoff for the Utah-Arizona State game on Oct. 8 at Rice-Eccles Stadium will be 1:30 p.m. and it will be televised on FSN (ROOT Sports in Utah). … Whittingham didn't watch any televised games Saturday because he was out recruiting at junior college games in California. … Utah has won 10 straight games coming off a bye week in the regular season, including six in Whittingham's tenure as head coach. … Washington is the only team in the Pac-12 that Utah has never beaten. The Huskies have won all six previous meetings.
Dirk Facer is the "Ute Insider" for ESPN 700 AM. He can be heard each week on "The Bill and Spence Show" and the Utah football pregame show.
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