For now, the Utah Utes are known as the team that dashed Stanford’s national championship hopes by upsetting the Cardinal 27-21 over the weekend.
But the Utes, who travel to Arizona (3-2, 0-2) Saturday for their first game this season outside of the state of Utah, say they are determined to be known as more than just a one-hit wonder.
As monumental as Saturday’s victory was, the Utes (4-2, 1-2) know it won’t have any lasting significance if they can’t add a few more wins to their total and at least become bowl eligible this year.
Reaching a bowl game while playing their most difficult schedule in the program’s history would be a satisfying accomplishment for the Utes, who failed to qualify for a bowl game last year for the first time since 2002.
“You see it a lot, teams come off a big game like that and have a downfall,” running back Bubba Poole said. “That will be our motivation this week. We don’t want to be that team that gets a big emotional win and then just drops.”
The Utes’ confidence received a huge boost, not only because they beat Stanford, but the way they did it.
Utah stood toe-to-toe with a team coach Kyle Whittingham dubbed the most physical in the Pac-12 and won the game with a solid defensive effort and an efficient offense.
There was no need for any goofy trick plays or Hail Mary passes at the end or wacky circumstances that triggered the upset. The Utes simply went out and won a smash-mouth game of football.
“There were a lot of positives in that game we can build on,” Whittingham said. “It can be magnified, if we are able to build on it.”
Having done it once, the Utes feel they can win more games in similar fashion, starting with Saturday’s contest in Tucson.
Before the season started, Utah’s matchup with the Wildcats appeared one of the Utes’ more winnable road games given Arizona’s struggles.
The Wildcats finished the 2012 season 8-5 overall, but just 4-5 in league play. One of those wins came against the Utes — a 34-24 decision at Rice-Eccles Stadium in which running back Ka’Deem Carey rushed for 204 yards and the Wildcats scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
This year, the Wildcats rank 14th nationally averaging 262.2 rushing yards a game, while Carey is averaging 142.3 yards a game.
“He is one of the best backs in the country and he gave us fits last year,” Whittingham said. “We have to not let him do to us this year what he did to us last year.”
Facing a run-oriented offense is always welcomed by Utah, particularly in a year in which the secondary is still learning on the job and the Utes have their typically strong run defense.
The Utes held Stanford to 143 rushing yards and allowed only 38 total offensive yards in the third quarter.
They believe they can deliver a similar performance against the Wildcats.
“We’ve got some momentum,” defensive end Nate Orchard said. “We just have to keep using it.”
Utah at Arizona
P Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Networks