Utah Utes football: 3 points of emphasis for BYU game

Published: Friday, Sept. 14 2012 6:42 p.m. MDT

Utah's John White celebrates after scoring the third touchdown in the first half of the Utah Utes vs. Northern Colorado Bears game at the University of Utah on Thursday, August 30, 2012.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to points of emphasis this week, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham hasn't exactly been working off a short list. After last week's 27-20 overtime loss at Utah State, he noted that every unit on the team had things to work on before Saturday's game against BYU.

Whittingham said the Utes, thus, were "addressing the things we didn't do well on Friday, which are numerous" this week in practice.

On top of everything else, came news that starting quarterback Jordan Wynn was retiring after suffering the fourth shoulder injury of his career in the setback to the Aggies.

All in all, quite a lot to deal with while preparing for the Rivalry Game.

Winning without Wynn

While expressing confidence in backup quarterbacks Jon Hays and Travis Wilson, Whittingham noted that both would be given the opportunity to replace Wynn as the starter — getting equal reps with the ones this week.

"We won't name a starter," Whittingham said. "We'll trot one out on Saturday and that will be our guy."

Wynn, who won 14 games as Utah's starting quarterback, is confident that either guy will do fine.

"They have a lot of help around them," Wynn said. "I'll be on the sideline helping those guys get ready."

Hays, a senior, is the most experienced of the candidates. He started in place of an injured Wynn over the final nine games of 2011. The Utes went 6-3 in that stretch, prevailing in five of their final six games.

Wilson, a true freshman, has been impressive in limited action this season.

Reaching the century mark

It's simple, really. The numbers correlate directly with Utah's success or lack thereof. Over the past two seasons, the Utes are 9-0 when running back John White rushes for 100 yards. They're 0-6 when he doesn't.

Last week in Logan, the senior finished with 96 — close, but not close enough.

"The run game starts with movement at the line. We did not get that at all on Friday night," Whittingham said. "That's where it starts and that's why we got so many yards last year. The offensive line did a nice job blocking the run game last year, which is what we need to do."

White ran for 174 yards and three touchdowns in last year's 54-10 win at BYU.

This year, however, the Cougars are giving up an average of just 55 rushing yards per game.

Senior leadership

Which way will they go? Although their Pac-12 title hopes weren't impacted, last week's loss at USU may have put the Utes at a crossroads of sorts.

Whittingham said the program will rely on senior leadership to rise up and make sure the team gets things done.

"We can't panic. We'll stick to what we believe in and not make wholesale changes. That often does more damage than good," Whittingham explained. "Right now we'll stay the course, get the seniors to rally up and make sure the work ethic is there, the team is focused and everything is done the right way."

Team captains Star Lotulelei, Dave Kruger, Luke Matthews and White are experienced seniors charged with setting the tone.

"We've got to lead this team if we want to go far," Lotulelei said during camp.

Email: dirk@desnews.com; Twitter:DirkFacer

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