Utah Utes football: Utes' winning formula is to keep feeding White
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah football team's formula for success isn't guarded as closely as coveted recipes in the vaults at KFC and Coca-Cola.
Truth be known, the positive formula — patent not pending — for Utah victories isn't exactly a secret. Coach Kyle Whittingham even blurted it out Saturday during his press conference at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Combine 100-plus yards of rushing by John White IV with any U. football game, and — presto! — the outcome is a Ute win.
"He's been a mainstay for us," Whittingham said. "The formula is still there. If he goes over a hundred yards, we win. If he doesn't, we've lost."
Case in point: White only had 215 combined yards in defeats to USC, Washington, Arizona State and Cal.
White's continued success on the ground has been all the more important for Utah, considering the loss of injured quarterback Jordan Wynn. The Utes need him, and have got him. Against UCLA, he accounted for 180 of Utah's 291 yards on offense.
"He had a great performance," Utah quarterback Jon Hays said. "The conditions weren't ideal for throwing the ball, so he did what he needed to do to get us the win."
Since his quiet 39-yard outing in the 34-10 road loss at Cal, White has exploded for 481 yards in consecutive Pac-12 wins against the Beavers, Wildcats and Bruins.
And Saturday's performance, which included three touchdowns, took place on the slick, snow-covered turf.
"Nothing really surprises me with John anymore. The guy's a beast," Utah offensive lineman John Cullen said of the 5-foot-8, 186-pounder. "I love having him back there. Just knowing someone his size, even if you miss a block, he's going to hit somebody no matter what and get you yards.
"For him to do it on mud and snow and anything it's just how the guy plays."
The junior college transfer's land rush has vaulted him and his 1,191 yards into the No. 4 spot for single-season rushing in Ute history. On Saturday, he surpassed six former Utah players, including ex-NFLer Mike Anderson (1,173 yards).
White now finds himself on the heels of Darrell Mack (1,204 yards) and within striking distance of catching Utah's single-season rushing leader, Carl Monroe. The junior has three games, including a bowl game, to pass the former San Francisco 49er, who rushed for 1,507 yards in 1982.
No wonder Utah keeps force-feeding White to opposing defenses, who've had to deal with him on 238 carries this season.
"Yeah, we've got a running back. Boy, do we have a running back," Whittingham said. "He's a tough kid. I just love watching him play and the way he finishes runs. He plays the game like it's supposed to be played."
This stellar showing for White included an athletic 13-yard touchdown catch, which he held onto despite landing hard on his backside.
But the most memorable play was when he humorously did a teammate tango with Cullen en route to the end zone. The two collided and the left tackle tried to carry White across the goal line.
"I bumped into him," White explained, laughing. "We looked right at each other's eyes. He just grabbed me in the end zone. It was great."
But, White added, "If he wasn't in the way, I'm pretty sure I would've scored easily."
The 6-5, 300-pound Cullen admitted he was guilty as charged.
"At first, I thought I helped and then looking back I probably just got in his way," Cullen said. "I wasn't really thinking. I just saw him, so I tried to pull him in."
After laughter and a TD-nullifying review ended, White then did what he's done so many times this season — carry himself and the Utes when needed. He punched the ball back in for a score, with Cullen only blocking on this 1-yard run to put the Utes ahead for good at 7-3.
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