Utah (4-5, 2-4) at Washington (5-4, 3-3)
CenturyLink Field, Seattle
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. (MT)
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: ESPN 700
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s offense is starting to come of age under the nation’s youngest coordinator and a true freshman quarterback. The Utes racked up a season-high 453 yards and seven scoring drives in Saturday’s 49-6 victory over Washington State.
“The chemistry is good and we’re starting to jell a little bit with the offense and the scheme,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who noted that quarterback Travis Wilson has taken a step forward in each of his four successive starts.
Senior running back John White, who ran for 101 yards and scored three touchdowns in the Utes’ latest triumph, said the 18-year-old Wilson is maturing every week.
Wilson’s progress since replacing previous starters Jordan Wynn and Jon Hays has mirrored the offense’s development. Although Wilson acknowledged his confidence is growing, he isn’t about to say that the offense has arrived.
“I don’t think we have. We’ve still got a lot more to do and a lot more to prove,” Wilson said. “So we’ve just to keep on coming out every week and make sure we’re putting up a lot more points, too.”
Even after back-to-back weeks with 49 points, Utah ranks 73rd nationally in scoring offense (26.56 ppg). The Utes enter this week’s game against Washington ranked 93rd in passing offense (199.11 ypg), 97th in rushing offense (125.33 ypg) and 106th in total offense (324.44 ypg).
The Utes, though, are beginning to build an identity on offense under the 25-year-old Johnson.
“It’s good. We’re doing some things a little bit better,” he said. “We knew it would be a process but I’m really proud of the way our guys are responding and it’s always nice to get a win.”
Utah converted on 7-of-13 third-down situations and averaged 6.6 yards per play against Washington State. A rise in offensive efficiency has accompanied the Utes’ first back-to-back victories of the season. It followed a four-game skid.
“We’ve so close all season long and just a couple of mistakes here and there proved to be the difference in a couple of games early on,” Johnson said. “But just credit the resolve of our players, coaching staff and our entire program to continue to battle. Though we’ve still got a long way to go but we’ve got a great opportunity next week up in Seattle.”
At 4-5 overall, Utah is two victories away from bowl eligibility and three away from securing the program’s 10th consecutive winning season.
The Utes are determined to keep the streak going and they’re taking on the challenge with a united front.
“The whole team is feeding off each other,” said senior receiver Reggie Dunn, who has paced the special teams effort with three 100-yard kickoff returns over the past two games.
Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, a senior captain, noted that the current run of success feels good and that contributions have been plentiful.
“We came out and we executed on both sides of the ball again,” Lotulelei said.
Utah’s defense held Washington State scoreless until the final play of the game.
“We were pretty disappointed,” said junior defensive end Joe Kruger. “But it’s all right. We killed them.”
The Cougars finished with just 255 yards of total offense (minus-4 rushing) and were only 2-of-15 on third downs. They gave up six sacks and turned the ball over twice.
“Our players did a great job of executing,” Whittingham said.
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