Greetings from sunny LA where the temperatures are warm and the Utes are hoping to break out of their cold spell by beating the Bruins.
Earlier this week Utah coach Kyle Whittingham noted things didn't go so well the last time his team played here, when the Bruins beat Utah 31-10.
Clearly that game still bugs Whittingham and for good reason. That was the game in which the Utes pulled starting quarterback Brett Ratliff in the second quarter when the game was tied 7-7 and replaced him with Tommy Grady.
Grady's second pass was picked off by a Bruin, who returned it 34 yards for a touchdown that proved to be the turning point in the game.
After the game, Whittingham defended his decision to use Grady by saying it was the Utes' plan all along to get him in the game. Rather than blaming Grady, Whittingham blamed the interception on a bad route and said the Utes should have played Grady more in the second half because Ratliff was struggling.
Ratliff was 6-for-12 for 66 yards before he was replaced and only 7-for-19 for 96 yards and an interception after Grady's appearance.
Now flash ahead and here we are at another Utah-UCLA game with Whittingham needing to make some similar quarterback decisions with freshman Travis Wilson expected to play a substantial amount.
Getting him involved early might be the key to a Utah upset.
Other keys? Improvement along the offensive line, particularly with Miles Mason out of the coaches' doghouse following last week's performance.
The Utes also need to stop UCLA's run attack and turn the Bruins' offense into a one-dimenstional offense.
Overall it seems like a tough task for the Utes.
Still picking the Bruins in this one, but a close one.
- Lya Wodraska
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