Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has found a way to make an even bigger deal out of last week’s 27-21 win over fifth-ranked Stanford.
“It can be magnified if we’re able to build on it and do some good things going forward,” he said as the Utes prepare for Saturday’s game at Arizona.
Utah’s initial trip outside of the state this season comes on the heels of the program’s first home victory over a top 5 opponent.
“We’ve got to carry this momentum on to this week,” said quarterback Travis Wilson. “We’ve got to have a great week of practice. Arizona’s a good team, but we’ve just got to make sure we do our part.”
After opening the season with five of their first six games at Rice-Eccles Stadium (the lone exception being a trip to BYU on Sept. 21), the Utes (4-2, 1-2) embark on back-to-back Pac-12 road games at Arizona and USC. Then comes a bye, followed by a season-ending stretch featuring home contests against Arizona State (Nov. 9) and Colorado (Nov. 30) plus away dates with Oregon (Nov. 16) and Washington State (Nov. 23).
“Guys have the confidence, and the momentum is what we need going into these next couple of games. We need to get these wins before we go into our bye week,” said defensive end Nate Orchard. “The goal is to get these seniors to a bowl game. We need to get those six wins and just keep continuing from there.”
Running back Bubba Poole said that the Utes have plenty of momentum to do so — even if it will be different to finally get out on the road.
This will be Utah’s latest out-of-state road opener since a trip to Wyoming on Oct. 25, 1947.
Whittingham doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal. He did acknowledge, however, that the first real journey outside the state is a little bit of a concern for the players that have never done it.
“I don’t think it matters when it happens during the course of the season. I don’t think that’s relevant,” Whittingham explained. “But our guys that have never been on a Division I road trip, which there’s quite a few guys (that) will be in that category, it’s important that they handle themselves the right way and understand how we operate. So I think that’s a bigger issue than the timing of it.”
Orchard, though, sees it as more of a learning experience than anything else.
“You go into a totally different environment and you kind of get the feel of not being liked,” he said. “I think that’s what we need (to) kind of bond together and trust one another going into another state.”
The Utes did prevail in their last outing outside the boundaries, topping Colorado 42-35 last November in Boulder. Prior to that, they dropped four straight Pac-12 decisions on the road — losing games to Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon State and Washington. The skid, combined with a non-conference loss at Utah State, led to a 1-5 mark away from home for the Utes in 2012.
This year’s 1-0 start (after the win at BYU) and the abundance of early home games has Wilson optimistic that things will be better for Utah on the road this time around.
“I’m glad we got to stay in the state for quite some time (and) I think it’s going to be good,” he said. “Hopefully we can get some road wins.”
The Utes went 4-2 away from home in 2011, picking up conference victories at Arizona and Washington State.
Utah (4-2, 1-2) at Arizona (3-2, 0-2)
Arizona Stadium, Tucson
Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
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