Jordan Wynn fancies himself as a gunslinging quarterback, a guy who can cut it loose and beat his opponents with big throws. He has loved to take risks throughout his career, he admits, only now he has learned there are times when it's best to put his gun in the proverbial football holster. The way he'll dump off a 3- to 5-yard pass or toss the ball out of bounds rather than go downfield might drive some Utah fans crazy, but Wynn knows a boring, 3-yard gain is much better than an interception.
"My freshman year, I was eager to throw it downfield and chunk it out there, and that's not always the most intelligent thing to do," he said. "I've learned to play the game within the game of football in situations. I know when to take calculated risks."
That willingness to hold himself back is one of the biggest ways in which Wynn has matured since his freshman year, when he started the last five games and threw eight touchdowns for the season but also threw four interceptions.
Last year he threw 17 touchdowns with 10 picks.
This year, Wynn has three touchdowns and no interceptions. Most importantly, in coach Kyle Whittingham's assessment, Wynn continues to improve in the mental aspect of the game.
"His understanding of the game as a whole has improved," Whittingham said. "He came in here very bright, confident and mature but he didn't have the knowledge of the intricacies of playing at the collegiate level. He knows that inside and out now. When he first got here he wasn't as schooled up as he is now."
The Utes hope that savvy can help Wynn lead the Utes to another victory Saturday against the Cougars. BYU's Jake Heaps might have the stronger arm, particularly since Wynn still isn't as strong on his long throws as he was prior to shoulder surgery. However, if there is anything Wynn has learned in his time as the Utah quarterback, it's that several smart plays that methodically march a team down the field are better than an offense that lives and dies on big plays.
That maturity has not only made him better, but also the Utes as a team, lineman Tony Bergstrom said.
The new offense complements Wynn's decision-making, allowing him more time in the pocket to read defenses and make the necessary adjustments, Bergstrom said.
"He puts us in the best situations and he has more freedom this year in the offense to do that so it fits his abilities really well, Bergstrom said. "We believe in Jordan Wynn and know he is the best guy for the job. He is a field general out there and runs the game well. We have all the faith in the world in him out there."
One of Wynn's key lessons in being patient with the offense came last year against the Cougars, when Utah rallied for a 17-16 victory by scoring all of its points in the fourth quarter.
Wynn started the second half on the bench as the Utes gave senior Terrance Cain a shot at moving the offense, but they went back to Wynn with the third series of the half when Cain didn't have any success. Wynn and his teammates were able to manufacture just enough offense to rally past the Cougars. Wynn finished the game 13 of 30 for 199 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was just 5 of 12 for 86 yards in the second half, but the numbers didn't matter, the win did.
"Anytime you play a rivalry game, it is huge to win, more so last year because you don't want that hanging over your head going into the bowl game," he said.
As it turns out, Wynn didn't get to play in the Las Vegas Bowl due to his shoulder injury, which required surgery to repair.
Wynn, who admitted Monday his throwing motion is different and he isn't quite 100 percent on his long throws as a result of the surgery, said his confidence in his shoulder and the new offense is growing.
"I know I need to complete more passes and things like that," he said. "There is always room for improvement. Once I do that and we get the run game going, you are going to see the offense flourish."
Flourish, that is, in a smart way.
Jordan Wynn stats
Year Games Comp-Att Yds TDs Int
2009 6 104-179 1,329 8 4
2010 10 186-299 2,334 17 10
2011 2 38-69 339 3 0