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Utah Utes football notebook: 2005 win over Arizona launched a new era

Published: Thursday, Nov. 3 2011 6:25 p.m. MDT

Kyle Whittingham won his first game as Utah's head coach, a 27-24 victory over Arizona, Sept. 2, 2005.

Scott G. Winterton, Dnews

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SALT LAKE CITY — Kyle Whittingham has a very good memory, so it's no surprise that he can remember details of the last time Utah played Arizona in football.

It was Sept. 2, 2005, but this game was an extra-special game because it was Whittingham's first-ever game as a college head coach.

In that Friday night game, the Utes jumped out to a big lead against the Wildcats, then hung on for dear life in a 27-24 victory that extended the Utes' three-season winning streak to 17 games.

"It was my first game — I was nervous going into that game and didn't really know what to expect with a new team and new coaching staff," Whittingham said earlier this week. "I think Eric Weddle had an interception and Quinton Ganther had a big night for us … it turned out to be positive."

Whittingham was correct about Weddle, who actually returned an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter to give the Utes a 27-10 lead. Ganther finished with 127 yards rushing on the night, while current U. quarterback coach Brian Johnson passed for 220 yards, completing 19 of 30 attempts in his first start.

The Ute coach didn't mention how he couldn't breathe easy until five seconds left when Casey Evans' interception sealed the deal.

NO MEMENTOS: Whittingham says he doesn't have a football in his office from his first game with the score on the football in white paint or anything like that.

"I'm not a real memorabilia guy," he said. "I don't even know where my (championship) rings are from the past 10 years."

MORE MEMORIES: Whittingham has faced Arizona several other times as a Ute assistant and he has memories of each game, although they aren't all quite as clear.

He said he remembered "a 13-10 defensive struggle" under coach Ron McBride, which was actually a 17-3 Arizona win in 2000 in the season home opener.

There was the 2004 game when the Utes, under coach Urban Meyer, went down to Tucson and took a 23-6 victory that featured a couple of "great goal-line stands."

In 2002 it was the infamous 23-17 loss when the Utes felt the officials blew a key call in the final minutes that prevented a victory.

"We thought Josh Lyman had a touchdown," Whittingham said. "That was before the days of instant replay. Maybe now that would have been a win, but who knows."

Then there was the 16-13 Freedom Bowl win over Arizona in 1994 when Mike McCoy hit Kevin Dyson with the game-winner, in Whittingham's first year as an assistant.

"I remember all of them, but the most memorable one was the most recent one here," he said.

UTE NOTES: The overall series between Utah and Arizona is 19-15-2 in Utah's favor.…The first-ever game between the two was in 1924 when the Utes won 32-7 in Salt Lake.…One Arizona coach very familiar with Utah is offensive line coach Robert Anae, who was BYU's offensive coordinator for six years.…Mo Lee, a JC transfer from Florida, who got his first interception last week, is listed as a co-starter at cornerback with Ryan Lacy.…The forecast for Tucson Saturday calls for a high of 64 with light rain.

Email: sor@desnews.com

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