SALT LAKE CITY — It had been a while since Utah coach Kyle Whittingham had lost two straight games. Prior to this year's setbacks to TCU and Notre Dame, the last time it happened was 2007 when the Utes opened the season with losses to Oregon State and Air Force.
After ending the most recent skid with a 38-34 win over San Diego State, Whittingham said it taught him something: "Never take a Division I victory for granted."
He expounded on it before leaving Qualcomm Stadium and looking ahead to Saturday's rivalry game against BYU.
"I was taking things for granted," he said. "It was a good wake-up call for me to really appreciate what a win means."
Back-to-back losses after an 8-0 start to the season, also led to a re-examination of everything.
"It's constant evolution. We're always trying to perfect things," Whittingham said. "We're not just doing the same thing over and over and over."
"It's the perfect situation. I couldn't imagine a better way to end my career as a Ute here at the stadium. This game, I've been thinking about it as the culmination of my whole career. Finishing off my fifth year in this program with a big win against BYU would be the best thing I could possibly want. I know what it's like to beat BYU at our house and it's probably one of the sweetest memories I've had since I've been here."
— Utah center Zane Taylor
Utah's move to the Pac-12 in July comes with an agreement that all future non-conference games be scheduled over the first three weeks of the season. As such, the Utes and Cougars will no longer meet in November as they have each year since 1968. The next two contests between the rivals are scheduled for Sept. 17, 2011 in Provo and Sept. 15, 2012 in Salt Lake City.
TCU coach Gary Patterson expressed his hope for civility in the rivalry during this week's MWC Coaches Teleconference: "I wish their fans got along a lot better," he said. ... Utah can claim the Beehive Boot for the 12th time with a victory ... The Utes enter the game ranked No. 14 in the nation in scoring offense (37.3 ppg) and No. 26 in scoring defense (20.2 ppg). ... Utah has been outscored 68-54 in the first quarter this season. The Utes, though, have topped the opposition in the other three quarters and overtime by a convincing 356-154 margin ... As players at BYU, Whittingham (1978-81) had a 3-1 mark against Utah; co-offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick (1997-98) went 1-1; and defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake (1994, 1997-2000) was 2-3 ... Utah's defense averages 4.5 three-and-outs per game, seventh-best in the country ... Linemen Neli A'asa and Star Lotulelei have seen action on both offense and defense this season.