OK, that was the easy part. As much fun as the Utah Utes had in the last two games piling on the points, sacking quarterbacks and watching Reggie Dunn razzle-dazzle his way into the record books, the Utes aren’t naive enough to believe their big wins over Cal and Washington State mean their challenges are behind them.
Instead, they are just ahead of them, starting with Saturday’s game at Washington (5-4, 3-3).
Washington by the numbers
Passing yards » 200.4
Rushing yards » 131.4
Scoring average » 20.7
Points allowed » 26.3
The Utes, who beat Washington State 49-6 Saturday, are two wins away from becoming bowl eligible, but they face their toughest challenges of the second-half of the season with the game against the Huskies, followed by a home game against Arizona and the season finale at Colorado.
The Utes are certainly feeling better about themselves and their chances of playing past Thanksgiving, but there is no false sense of security, either.
"We haven’t arrived by any means," cautioned Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "We’re starting to figure things out and taking baby steps, but we have to keep the same mentality and keep working hard."
Like the Utes, Washington is riding a two-game winning streak after a tumultuous start to the Pac-12 schedule.
The Huskies have been up and down, beating No. 8 Stanford 17-13, losing to No. 2 Oregon 52-21 and playing No. 11 USC close in a 24-14 loss, only to get blasted at Arizona 52-17.
The Huskies recovered and beat No. 7 Oregon State 20-17, then took down Cal 21-13 on Friday.
Bishop Sankey ran for a career-high 189 yards and two touchdowns, and Keith Price, a former Utah recruit, was 16-for-29 for 235 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
"They are a well-coached team," Whittingham said. "Keith Price, I’ve been impressed with him and they’ve got some good players, and it’s at their place so it’s going to be tough."
Even though the season is winding down, the Utes feel they are just finding their groove now in many respects.
Quarterback Travis Wilson continues to improve. Against the Cougars he connected with 14 different receivers, and he is gaining confidence with each game, he said.
"Every week the game is slowing down for me more," he said. "I feel like I’m progressing every week."
Running back John White has found his form, too, posting two 100-yard plus games. The defense is riding high after holding Washington State to minus-4 yards rushing, a performance complemented by the Utes’ ability to harass Washington State’s quarterbacks and record six sacks.
It was, as Whittingham said, the Utes’ second complete game in a row.
The Utes, though, know they’ll need an even better performance to beat the Huskies.
"We’ve got to finish out like we did last year," White said. "We’ve got a long road to go so we have to keep working hard."
Utah at WashingtonSaturday, 8:30 p.m.
TV » Pac-12 Network
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.