Monson: Utes heal themselves against the Cougars
Utah get both a win and the resulting bit of confidence from it.
Published: November 3, 2012 08:31PM
Updated: March 6, 2013 11:31PM
image
Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah running back John White (15) celebrates a touchdown run as Utah hosts Washington State, college football at Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday November 3, 2012 in Salt Lake City.

Don’t want to get all biblical here, but Utah had one major goal and a minor one playing against a lousy Washington State team at Rice-Eccles Hospital on Saturday:

To heal itself.

To turn a miracle or two, too.

In college football, there’s no healing like the healing that comes when going against one of the worst teams in the conference, a team that can’t run the football, can’t stop anybody and can’t win. WSU now stands at 0-6 in the Pac-12.

The Cougars were timely medicine, then, a few full swigs of Professor Goode’s Holistic Tonic. And the Utes drank that up, along with a proper dose of EZ pickings, getting a decent amount of rest and reassurance on their way to getting well again, to the tune of a 49-6 victory.

And it wasn’t that close.

The Utah offense, so sickly for much of this season, grew chipper enough to match the effort of the defense for the first time, accumulating yardage and spinning the numbers on the board pretty much whenever it felt like it, whenever the D handed it the ball. And that defense handed it over a lot, coming within one second of its first shutout ever in the Pac-12.

“We played really well — the offense and the defense,” said linebacker Trevor Reilly. “Everything looked good. We got some confidence. We’re a team that needed some of that, and it feels good.”

Said Kyle Whittingham: “We’re starting to figure things out. We’ve gotten better each of the last four weeks. … We haven’t arrived by any means. … We just have to keep taking baby steps.”

Exactly how thorough the Utes’ resurgence and recovery is — Is Professor Goode a flimflam man, a snake-oil salesman? — will be discovered next week, when the Utes travel to Seattle to play Washington and the following week, against Arizona, two decent opponents. Either way, for the time being, Utah football acted like it did a few years ago, back when the Utes were full of vim and vigor and the winning came naturally.

“We still have a lot more to do, a lot more to prove,” said quarterback Travis Wilson. “Our offense was ready to play today.”

Even Utah’s run game came alive, blowing past effective, straight to unstoppable, gaining 205 yards. John White rushed early and often for just shy of 100 yards in the first half alone. He scored three touchdowns in those first two quarters, helping Utah to a 31-zip lead before the band even marched across the field, and by then the game was over.

“When [John] goes for 100 yards, we win,” Whittingham reminded everyone, including himself.

After Reggie Dunn returned Washington State’s second-half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown — Is there an echo in here? He did the same thing twice last week — not only were the Utes feeling fine, they got mean.

On a favorable read, they subsequently went for two, instead of simply kicking a PAT, and succeeded when Jake Murphy ran it in, pushing the lopsided numbers on the board to 39-0 early in the third.

From there, Utah rolled on.

The Ute D made a shambles of the supposedly prolific Washington State pass attack. The Cougars gained some yardage, none of it on the ground, and it mattered not one bit. It was as though the Utes settled in on — and were amused by — watching the hamsters spin the wheels in their cages, getting nowhere fast.

“... If five of our guys went in an alley and got in a fight with two of theirs, we would have gotten massacred,” said WSU coach Mike Leach. “That’s just ridiculously inexcusable. It was one of the most heartless efforts up front I’ve seen; and our defensive line wasn’t any better.”

When Utah couldn’t hold onto its shutout, giving up a TD pass on the game’s final play, defensive lineman Joe Kruger said: “We were pretty disappointed. But it’s all right, we killed ’em.”

Yeah, they did.

Still, the takeaway from the entire exercise was a split decision.

On the one hand, Utah did its job and played well.

On the other, if the Utes were still playing competition like Washington State every week, they’d be on their way to an undefeated season and a BCS bowl. They would be whole again.

We’ll wait and see, checking on their complete health later on.

At 4-5, 2-4 in league, they will move on against better opponents in the weeks ahead, hoping the recovery lasts and the good feeling lingers.

“We needed it,” Whittingham said. “Our backs are to the wall, and that’s the way it will be the rest of the way.”

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM and 960 AM and 97.5 FM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.