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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Utes' offense finds better rhythm in slimmed down version

Most players don't like it when coaches get in their face, but for Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, having his offensive coordinator on the sidelines next to him made a big difference in Saturday's win over Cal.

The Utes put offensive coordinator Brian Johnson on the sidelines Saturday and had passing coordinator Aaron Roderick in the box.

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The switch worked better because Roderick is very good at reading coverages and Wilson had better interaction with Johnson.

"Before it was difficult because he wasn't there in front of me," Wilson said. "I like it a lot better. I like being face-to-face with him better."

Wilson said the switch helped the Utes play with a better tempo too and he welcomed Johnson's emotional leadership.

"We definitely got the plays in faster," he said. "Coach Johnson was there to give us more juice too so that was a big help."

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he was going to stick with Johnson on the field, particularly since the offense ran better than it has in previous games.

A slimmed down playbook helped the Utes too.

"We streamlined the package a bit," he said. "It wasn't as voluminous as in the past. We honed in on a few concepts and really hammered those rather than have as much offense available as we had before. With less I think it was good for our players to get better at a few things then have as much on their plate. Not that we had a ton, it was pretty typical of what most offenses carry, but we did scale it back."

The Utes are going to keep emphasizing the run, but whether or not that gameplan will include backup running back Kelvin York is unknown. Whittingham wouldn't divulge details on the high ankle sprain York sustained in Saturday's win, but said how many carries White gets against Washington State will depend on York's status.

"If Kelvin is available the carries become a little more evenly split as we talked about last week but if Kelvin is not there John may have to pack the ball 30 or 32 times," Whittingham said. "We will see what happens, but we know his track record and what he is capable of and it's not something he can't handle, he has handled it in the past."

Whittingham said John White's 105-yard effort Saturday showed he was back to form after an ankle injury hampered him early in the season.

"He ran much more like he did last year with more violence, more finish," he said.

"We need that to continue," he added. "Obviously the 100-yard mark for him is a plus. Case in point was Saturday. Hopefully down the stretch he'll give the team a lift like he was able to do last year."

Utah is 10-0 when White rushes for 100 yards or more.

Kick returner Reggie Dunn was showing off his new haircut Monday, a mohawk with two lightning bolts along the sides. Dunn said he got the haircut on Thursday. It seemed particularly appropriate after his two 100-yard kickoff returns.

"Hopefully it will be a good luck charm for us," Dunn said. "We had the rally 'staches last year, I'm trying to get us to get rally 'hawks this year."

Dunn said he went into Saturday's game with the intent of 'making something happen.'

"Coach (Jay) Hill always tells us to give short fields to the offenses and we can make something happen if we get past the 50," Dunn said. "But it was just me as a senior, I feel like it's real important for me to step up in my last year and make some plays for special teams and the team."

Dunn's returns tied the NCAA record for most touchdowns off kickoff returns in a game and set the NCAA mark for the highest kick return average (74.0 on three returns).

It's believed Dunn is the first player in NCAA history to return two kickoffs of 100 yards in a game, however the NCAA does not keep records for 100-yard kickoffs in a game, season or career.

Utah officials are researching to see if any other player has accomplished the feat.

- Lya Wodraska



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