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After big win, Utes satisfied to give crystal ball the boot

Published September 3, 2010 8:08 pm

Whittingham • Coach says team not looking past UNLV.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham didn't even need to hear all of a reporter's question late Thursday before the Utes' leader shut him down.

All he heard was "BCS," and he answered with a growl, "We aren't thinking about the BCS."

As tempting as it might be to look ahead and wonder if the Utes could be BCS busters one final time after they opened the season with a 27-24 overtime win against No. 15 Pitt, the Big East favorite, Whittingham is having none of it.

The focus is on the immediate future, he said, which is preparing for UNLV and fixing mistakes made in Thursday's opener.

So while fans might be giddy about the Utes' 18th win in a row and fourth at home against a ranked opponent, the team is doing something more mundane this Labor Day weekend: laboring.

The Utes had two fumbles, an interception, a blocked punt, 11 penalties for 99 yards and stalls in the red zone to contribute to an outcome that was closer than it needed to be Thursday.

They were enough to lose the game, but Utah made one more play than Pitt, Whittingham said.

Whittingham planned to start working on corrections immediately, with long film sessions Friday. The Utes won't practice again until Monday.

"This is a very grounded team, and we'll get in the film room and get it all addressed, starting tomorrow," he said after the game.

The Utes have a few extra days to work out the kinks, since they don't play again until UNLV visits Saturday for a 2 p.m. game.

The time off should do quarterback Jordan Wynn some good, too, since he is listed as day-to-day with a sprained thumb. After the game, he said he was fine.

As for the Rebels, they are in a transitional period with a new coach in Bobby Hauck.

His task in Las Vegas is turning around a perennially disappointing team, one that finished 5-7 in 2009.

The Rebels return several key skill players, including quarterback Omar Clayton (2,230 yards, 12 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) and running back Channing Trotter (541 yards, nine TDs).

But for the next few days at least, the Utes will worry more about what they are doing than about the Rebels.

Aside from the opening-night mistakes, the Utes learned plenty about their own abilities and where improvements must be made.

The offense, while not as explosive as the Utes hope to be in 2010, did show it could move the ball against a good defense. Wynn was 21-of-36 passing for 283 yards and three touchdowns and found a good secondary receiver in DeVonte Christopher.

The sophomore, who caught just two passes in 2009 for all of 38 yards, had eight catches for 155 yards and a touchdown Thursday.

His emergence was crucial to the Utes' success, particularly after senior Shaky Smithson's night was marred by two fumbles.

Running back Matt Asiata showed he is back, too, rushing for 65 yards on 16 carries, while offensive tackle John Cullen lived up to his hype by keeping Wynn out of the hands of Pitt defensive end Greg Romeus.

Defensively, the Utes did a tremendous job against Pitt running back Dion Lewis, holding the Heisman candidate to a career-low 75 yards on 25 carries.

The defense had issues in the end, though, with Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri throwing for 127 of his 184 yards in the fourth quarter.

lwodraska@sltrib.com

Opening-night review

What we learned • Utah's offense might have a star in the making in receiver DeVonte Christopher, while the offensive line looks every bit as good as it did in 2009 — maybe better — since it didn't allow Pitt's defense a sack.

What we want to know • What other receivers are going to contribute this year, and what about the tight ends? Outside Christopher and Jereme Brooks, only three other receivers or tight ends caught passes, amounting to three for 13 yards.

What to watch for next • The Utes should be able to handle rebuilding UNLV just fine after taking down the team projected to win the Big East. The Rebels are picked to finish fifth in the MWC, but will the Utes suffer a mental letdown after the big game?