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Kragthorpe: Charmed 'Whit' can do no wrong
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

So the Utah Utes arrive at Halloween Night, unbeaten in conference play and climbing in the rankings, and coach Kyle Whittingham is making major offensive changes.

Under any other circumstances, switching his staff's play-calling assignments and turning to a freshman quarterback who never played in college could be considered signs of panic and desperation.

When you're winning -- before and afterward -- and the moves work as well as they did in Saturday's 22-10 victory over Wyoming at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the coach appears shrewd and bold.

That's how the charmed life of Kyle Whittingham is playing out these days. He can take offensive coordinator Dave Schramm largely out of the play-calling and bench eight-game starting quarterback Terrance Cain at halftime, and the only possible review could be an endorsement of his decisiveness.

And for that, he can mostly thank the Ute defense.

Without the defense's blanketing of Wyoming, nothing that receivers coach Aaron Roderick dialed up from the press box or quarterback Jordan Wynn did on the field would have worked sufficiently to give the Utes their fifth win in a row.

In seven victories, the Utes have allowed no more than 17 points. Saturday, they held Wyoming to 74 yards in the second half. Of course, what's the fun of talking about that stuff when there are coaching and quarterbacking issues to discuss?

After the Utes averaged fewer than 300 yards in recent wins over UNLV and Air Force, Whittingham had said, "We've got to coach better."

Or differently, anyway. Whittingham was seeking "more continuity and rhythm" offensively, which makes sense, except for the irony of it all. He also used "spark" as motivation for the coaching change, and applied the same word to Wynn's debut after the Utes trailed 10-3.

"Whatever it takes," Whittingham said, and that's a healthy attitude, even if the results were not stunningly different.

The Utes gained 363 total yards, right about their season average. They posted 166 yards and three points behind Cain, and 197 yards and 19 points under Wynn, mostly reflecting Eddie Wide's increased rushing totals and better field position.

Cain actually had better passing statistics, and Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said Wynn "didn't do any more ... than the first guy did."

Wynn's first two drives resulted in field goals, and at that point, the Utes had gone inside the Wyoming 26-yard line five times and scored nine points - a case, offensive lineman Zane Beadles said, of "shooting ourselves in the red zone."

That's gotta hurt.

Finally, Wynn delivered a 22-yard touchdown strike to Jereme Brooks, resulting from good protection against a blitz.

Cain had played himself out of the game by taking two sacks in the last minute of the half, pushing the Utes out of field-goal range. Wynn made some questionable decisions that almost cost him two interceptions, and the Ute defense handed him the ball at the Wyoming 9 for the final scoring drive. Yet overall, credit him with delivering the ball crisply and playing with poise.

"It was a lot of fun, I'll tell you that," Wynn said.

"Very pleased with what he did, I'll tell you that," Whittingham said, while not declaring Wynn the No. 1 QB just yet.

Not sticking with Wynn would be a shock at this point. The Utes were already winning, but they needed something more offensively. The kid gives them a new outlook, thanks to a coach who recognized that getting by against the Mountain West's middle tier in October is one thing, and having a chance at Texas Christian in November is quite another.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

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