Utah Utes football: Utes are finally warming up to challenging Pac-12 schedule
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah has caught some fire in its first season in the Pac-12. After opening league play with four losses, the Utes have now won three straight and can finish with a winning campaign if they're able to beat Washington State and Colorado over the next two weeks.
"It's week in and week out in this conference and you've got to be ready every week," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said while noting that the Utes need to stay focused and continue to have great leadership.
Running back John White IV acknowledged the Utes have been a lot better in recent weeks. He chalks the success up to "really locking in" and being better prepared in terms of ball security and letting go of turnovers.
"That's been a big plus for us," he said.
Safety Brian Blechen noted that everything has just started clicking.
"People are starting to trust each other," he said. "Everyone is doing their job and it's showing up."
MOVING ON UP: White is moving up the chart in pursuit of the school record for most rushing yards in a season. The junior upped his total to 1,191 yards with 167 against UCLA — passing former greats like Mike Anderson (1,173 in 1998), Del "Popcorn" Rogers (1,127 in 1981) and Quinton Ganther (1,120 in 2005) along the way.
White is now fourth on the list, trailing only Carl Monroe (1,507 in 1982), Dameon Hunter (1,396 in 2001) and Darrell Mack (1,204 in 2007).
"He's doing a great job for the team right now. I'm proud of him," said ex-Ute Eddie Wide, who was one of three other 1,000-yard rushers that White passed on Saturday. "He's doing his thing. He did it in junior college, now he's brought it to this level."
SUNNY SCENE: Two representatives from the Sun Bowl — executive bowl director Bernie Olivas and football chairman John Folmer — attended the game.
"I think the winner of this game has a very good opportunity to be in our game," Olivas said while noting that the Oregon-Stanford game and the BCS situation (if the Pac-12 gets two teams in) are other variables in the equation.
The Sun Bowl is played Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas.
ON THE COLD SIDE: The temperature at kickoff was 31 degrees. It was the second-coldest start to a game at Rice-Eccles Stadium since the facility was re-opened in 1998. The only colder one was last season's BYU game, which kicked off at 29 degrees.
EXTRA POINTS: The attendance was generously announced at 45,039, marking the program's 11th consecutive sellout. ... Several former Utes were on the sideline including Eric Weddle of the San Diego Chargers, Zane Taylor and Wide. ... Punter Sean Sellwood dropped two punts inside the 20, upping his total to nine on the season. ... Scouts from the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers were in attendance. ... Whittingham said there were no serious injuries to report. Wide receiver DeVonte Christopher twisted his knee in pregame warmups, but played in the game and caught two passes.
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