Kyle Whittingham came up with a rock-solid game plan in his 100th game as Utah’s coach: give the ball to John White.
With backup running back Kelvin York sidelined with an ankle sprain, White had one of his best showings of the season in leading the Utes (4-5, 2-4) to a 49-6 win over Washington State (2-7, 0-6) Saturday in front of 45,069 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
In a game featuring drastically different offensive styles, the Utes outplayed the pass-happy Cougars by focusing on smash-mouth football.
White finished with 18 carries for 101 yards and two touchdowns and added an 18-yard TD reception in what was a short day’s work for the senior as the Utes routed the Cougars.
Whittingham joked after the game that some of the games he has coached have taken 20 years off his life. Saturday’s contest wasn’t one of those nail-biters. In reality, it wasn’t much of a contest at all.
White did most of his damage in the first quarter, when he ran for 64 yards and a touchdown. His score on a 47-yard run during the Utes’ second possession ignited Utah as the Utes dominated in every aspect for the remainder of the afternoon.
Kick returner Reggie Dunn became the school’s record holder in career returns, getting his fourth when he galloped for a 100-yard return in the third quarter.
Dunn, who had two 100-yard returns a week ago and one in 2010 against Iowa State, is believed to be the first player in NCAA history to have four 100-yard returns in a career.
The Utes also ruled defensively, shutting down Washington State coach Mike Leach’s passing attack and logging six sacks.
Leach was so livid after the game he made both his offensive and defensive lines face media members’ questioning and offered one of the more memorable assessments a coach has given in Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“Our five couldn’t whip their two,” he said of his offensive line. “Which means, if five of our guys went in an alley and got in a fight with two of theirs, we would have gotten massacred. That’s just ridiculously inexcusable.”
The only damper on the day was Washington State’s last-second touchdown, which prevented the Utes from recording their second shutout of the year. Otherwise, Whittingham couldn’t have asked for much more in his 100th game.
The win kept Utah’s bowl hopes alive and gave the Utes some confidence as they prepare to play at Washington.
“It was a good effort all the way around,” Whittingham said. “We needed it. Our backs are to the wall the rest of the way, and we have to approach it like that. We’ve got to fight our way out of the corner.”
White’s play might have been the most reassuring aspect of the game for the Utes.
The heart of Utah’s offense a year ago, White struggled earlier in the season with a foot injury.
His low point was a 14-carry, 18-yard effort in the Utes’ 37-7 loss at Arizona State.
But White has looked more like his old self in the last two weeks, rushing for 105 yards against Cal then twisting and spinning his way for big gains Saturday.
He was spelled early in the third quarter with the Utes ahead 39-0.
White’s play was reminiscent of the success he had against the Cougars last year, when he rushed for 42 times for 185 yards in the Utes’ 30-27 overtime win.
Saturday’s game offered no such late-game drama.
“Our message this week was passion and energy,” White said. “We all went out there and took it.”
P IN SHORT • The Utes give head coach Kyle Whittingham one of his most decisive victories in his 100th game as coach.
KEY MOMENT • John White scores on a 47-yard run on Utah’s second possession to start the scoring onslaught.
KEY STAT • Reggie Dunn is believed to be the first player in NCAA history to have four 100-yard kickoff returns in a career.