Utah’s undefeated streak when John White rushes for 100 yards might be broken, but White’s importance to the offense has by no means decreased.
If anything, the senior’s influence on Utah’s success could be magnified Saturday when the Utes (4-6, 2-5) take on Arizona (6-4, 3-4).
The Wildcats boast one of the most potent offenses in the nation, averaging 526 yards and 37.9 points.
The best way to beat that offense is to keep it on the sideline, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said this week.
Enter White, who is Utah’s best option in a game of keep-away.
In two years, the Utes are 11-1 when White has rushed for 100 yards. The one misstep came a week ago, when White rushed for a season-high 142 yards but the Utes still fell to Washington 34-15.
Chalk that loss up to not only a horrendous effort in the passing game but also to turnovers and defensive breakdowns. More often than not, White’s rushing has served as the barometer to Utah’s success as his ability to wear down defenses and open possibilities for the passing game has led to victories for the Utes.
“It is just a stat,” Whittingham said of White’s mark. “But it has served as a marker of sorts. It has been a positive for us as far as translating into wins. That speaks for itself.”
White is tied with Del Rodgers and Eddie Johnson for the most 100-yard games in Utah history. Getting No. 13 on Saturday isn’t important to him, he said — unless, of course, it is tied to a Utah win.
“I don’t pay attention to that, it’s just a statistic,” he said. “I’m more worried about coming out with a win. We have to get a win.”
White has had a much bigger impact on Utah’s offense lately, now that he has healed from an earlier foot injury and the Utes are emphasizing the run game more.
He has had three 100-yard games in a row and has averaged more than 4.8 yards a carry in all of his 100-yard efforts.
Once concerned that White couldn’t handle a lot of carries, the Utes have learned that it is often defenses that can’t handle White. His frequent carries of 20-plus times a game have worn teams down.
There were times, such as last year’s wins over Oregon State, Arizona and UCLA, when White’s two legs wore out whole defenses.
“Pound a team all day, they get tired and start to lose their minds a little bit and start forgetting what they came to the game to do and what they are going to do on this play and that play, and they start to misread keys,” said White. “I love the run game, pounding the rock, and if that is what it takes for us to win, I am down for it.”
Also down for it is quarterback Travis Wilson, who welcomes the impact White has on defenses. Feeling pressure to get the throw game going, Wilson said White’s play makes it easier on him.
“When we establish the run, that opens things up for us,” he said. “We have to have a combination of both, and we have to convert third downs.”
The Utes weren’t able to do that against the Huskies, going 1-for-13 on third, but the Utes hope that was the anomaly.
“We have to move the chains more than anything else,” Whittingham said.
Utah’s 100-yard game leaders
12 • Del Rodgers (1978-81), Eddie Johnson (1984-88), John White (2011-12)
11 • Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala (1995-97), Mike Anderson (1998-99)
10 • Tony Lindsay (1977-80), Carl Monroe (1981-82)
Arizona at Utah
P Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV • ESPNU
White’s 100-yard games
Opponent White rushing Passing yds. Outcome
Montana St. 150 101 W, 27-10
BYU 174 239 W, 54-10
Pitt 171 127 W, 26-14
Oregon St. 205 62 W, 27-8
Arizona 109 199 W, 34-21
UCLA 167 67 W, 31-6
Wash. St. 185 123 W, 30-27 (OT)
Georgia Tech 115 193 W, 30-27 (OT)
Northern Colo. 119 221 W, 41-0
Cal 105 156 W, 49-27
Wash. St. 101 248 W, 49-6
Washington 142 55 L, 34-15
Wynn to join Chow in Hawaii as QB coach
His playing days might be over, but things are looking sunnier — and warmer — for former Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn. Wynn, who left Utah to return home last week, will join Norm Chow’s staff at Hawaii as the quarterbacks coach in January, Chow confirmed with The Salt Lake Tribune.
Chow served as Utah’s offensive coordinator last year. After Wynn suffered his season-ending shoulder injury against Washington, he spent much of the time during Utah’s games with Chow in the booth.
• Read the full story at sltrib.com/utes