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Utah football: QB Travis Wilson making difficult plays look easy

Published October 14, 2013 6:37 pm

Utah football notes • Coach compares sophomore to Alex Smith.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Travis Wilson's swing passes to Bubba Poole in Saturday's win over Stanford worked so well they might have seemed easy, but Utah coach Kyle Whittingham continues to be impressed with Wilson's development, noting the reads Wilson had to make were difficult, and that Wilson had to be in control of "a lot of moving parts."

That the sophomore was able to be successful reminded Whittingham of another Utah quarterback.

"His mind and his decision making is much like Alex Smith," Whittingham said.

While the Utes don't run the option as Smith did, Wilson is excelling at the zone read, Whittingham said.

"He has a lot on his plate and he is handling it well," Whittingham said.

Wilson went 23-of-34 for 234 yards against the Cardinal while Poole had seven catches for 75 yards and finished with 22 carries for 111 yards.

To be compared to Smith brought a huge smile to Wilson's face on Monday.

"I look up to Alex Smith and I love watching him on Sundays," he said. "I just have to keep working and improving."

Wilson attended Monday's press conference with a small bandage on his right thumb, the lasting evidence of a third-quarter takedown.

"They are just scrapes and bruises and stuff like that," he said. "It's all good."

Burger time

Saturday's win over Stanford was the 75th for Whittingham, who is 75-34 in his nine years as head coach of the Utes.

Whittingham said he and his brother celebrated the win by going to In-N-Out Burger and having a double double.

He said he didn't realize it was his 75th until his brother told him.

The burger chain evidently is a popular one with football teams. Oregon State coach Mike Riley has been known to take his team to the fast food chain to celebrate upset wins.

Honoree No. 1

Utah defensive end Nate Orchard was named Athlon's Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts in the Stanford game. Orchard finished with two sacks and forced two fumbles in the win. Orchard finished with five tackles, giving him 30 for the season.

Orchard said he went into the Stanford game with a new mindset after putting too much pressure on himself earlier in the year.

"The other day I said I just have to play my game, I've gotta do me," he said. "That was my mentality going into the game, trying to do me and make plays. I know what I am capable of and I did that."

Orchard said he learned he received the award when his dad texted him.

"It's a privilege to notice me and what we are doing as a team and as a defense," he said.

Honoree No. 2

Utah kicker Andy Phillips was named the Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week after making field goals from 22 and 48 yards against the Cardinal, improving to 11-of-11 on the season.

Phillips' success is one of the most surprising storylines in the Pac-12 this year, considering the former U.S. Ski Team member had no experience in football.

It prompted Whittingham to give away Utah's secrets in recruiting kicking talent on Monday.

"We no longer go to the soccer fields to find kickers," he said. "We go to the slopes."

TV tips

Fans who missed Utah's upset of the Cardinal can see a replay of the game Tuesday at 7 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks. … The Pac-12 announced that Utah's game at USC will kick off at 2 p.m. on Oct. 26 and will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.