Early returns but questions remain in state football successes

By Spencer Checketts

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 7 2011 1:42 p.m. MDT

In Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 cult-classic "Pulp Fiction," Harvey Keitel plays Winston Wolf, better knows as the Wolf. In a classic exchange with Tarantino’s character, Jimmie, the Wolf outlines what he does for a living:

The Wolf: You're Jimmie, right? This is your house? Jimmie: Sure is. The Wolf: I'm Winston Wolfe. I solve problems. Jimmie: Good, we got one. The Wolf: So I heard. May I come in? Jimmie: Uh, yeah, please do.

Simply put, the Wolf solves problems. And if week one of the 2011 college football season taught us anything, it’s that Kyle Whittingham and Bronco Mendenhall might need to contact Winston Wolfe before this coming Saturday. The may have a problem.

Sure, Utah beat Montana State (of the FCS Big Sky conference) by a comfortable 27-10 margin.

Sure, BYU beat Ole Miss 14-13 by way of a last-minute defensive miracle from sophomore linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

But things are about to get awfully real — and fast.

Starting off the season with a win is obviously positive, but Montana State isn’t even a Division-One football team. This was supposed to be a glorified “preseason” game for the Utes before they venture into the Los Angeles Coliseum Saturday to battle the USC Trojans and embark on their inaugural Pac-12 journey.

And while the Utes jumped out to a 24-0 lead, they were outscored 10-3 the rest of the way by their Big Sky opponent. Quarterback Jordan Wynn, looking to silence skeptical Ute fans, went 15-23 with 101 yards passing and 2 TDs, with no interceptions. The only game in Wynn’s career where he posted fewer passing yards (82) was back when he was a baby-faced freshman and came on as a sub in the second half versus Wyoming.

Utah’s lack of effective offensive drives caused head coach Kyle Whittingham to refer to the passing games as “abysmal” and question the play-calling of his new offensive coordinator, Norm Chow. Until #3 proves that he can regain the form that once established him as the unequivocal face and future of Utah football, the success of the season is in serious jeopardy. Ute fans were expecting more from Wynn last Thursday, and instead of emphatically answering questions against inferior competition, Wynn’s lackluster performance only garnered more doubt.

Yes, Ole Miss plays in the SEC West, the most dominant division in FBS. Yes, they have athletes on defense and size on the offensive line. And yes, beating an SEC team on the road is never a bad thing. But despite what many tried to have you believe last week, Ole Miss is a bad football team. BYU moved the ball well here and there, but mental errors, turnovers and lack of execution stalled most of those drives before points were put up on the board.

Sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps, who carries the weight of an entire institution expecting big things this year, was decidedly average versus the Rebels. He missed short throws, looked hesitant to go downfield and was uncharacteristically rattled at times. He needs to be better this Saturday in Austin, where north of 100,000 crazed Longhorn fans will pack Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium. Heaps threw the ball 38 times against Ole Miss, proving that offensive coordinator Brandon Doman trusts his young quarterback to carry the offense.

But 24 completions for 225 yards represent a paltry 5.9 average. That won’t get it done against Texas.

Using the glass-half-full approach, Utah and BYU received exceptional performances on the defensive side of the football. Brian Blechen had two interceptions, while Chaz Walker did what Chaz Walker does, making 10 total tackles. The young secondary was solid, led by true freshman Eric Rowe, who was all over the field making plays, while posting nine tackles. And per usual, the big boys up front on the D-Line dominated their O-Line counterparts. The defensive bailed the offense out and dominated the opposition.

But it was against Montana State.

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