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In advance of Utah’s football game at Arizona State in early November, I said the winning coach would become the Pac-12 South’s unofficial nominee for the conference’s Coach of the Year award.
That was before the degree of difficulty increased for Utah’s Kyle Whittingham. After that loss to ASU, amid season-ending injuries to quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss, Whittingham and his staff have done remarkable work.
Utah's only problem, in regard to the award, is the performance of Washington State's Mike Leach. If the Cougars beat Washington on Friday and win the North title, Leach likely will be the choice, considering WSU was picked to finish fifth in the division.
That’s not to devalue what Whittingham, who turned 59 on Wednesday, has done this season. He held his team together at two critical stages, after the 0-2 start in conference play and the loss at ASU. The awards usually are announced a few days after the Pac-12 title game, so Whittingham and his staff can improve their credentials next week.
Stories from the past week
The Utes' third quarter at Colorado was a 15-minute, championship-level performance. (TRIB)
Jason Shelley and high school teammate Jaylen Dixon continue to emerge as a good story. (TRIB)
Francis Bernard took advantage of his chance to play a big role after Chase Hansen’s targeting penalty. (TRIB)
Columnist Gordon Monson praised the Utes for disregarding the elements in Boulder. (TRIB)
Utah’s clinching of the South title created a new dynamic for the rivalry game vs. BYU (TRIB)
Monson advocated a full deployment of Utah’s personnel vs. BYU (TRIB)
Whittingham followed by saying that indeed would be his approach. (TRIB)
The Ute offensive line has protected Shelley well in two games, and he has helped. (TRIB)
The bowl picture will get a little cloudy if the Utes lose in the Pac-12 title game (TRIB)
Monson analyzed Saturday’s matchup of freshman QBs. (TRIB)
This is a big weekend for the Ute men’s basketball team, with three games in California. (TRIB)
Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News relived some great memories for Ute fans from 1988. (DNEWS)
Pac-12 expert Jon Wilner outlined some bowl possibilities. (MERC)
Utah is the top non-Washington school in the Spokesman-Review’s Pac-12 rankings. (SPOKES)
• Penn State linebacker Manny Bowen will join Utah’s team as a graduate transfer, the school announced. Bowen made 134 tackles in three seasons (2015-17) for the Nittany Lions, amid some troubles within the program. Utah has openings at linebacker with Chase Hansen and Cody Barton graduating. Francis Bernard is expected to fill one starting spot. Bernard and former receiver Darren Carrington II are recent examples of players who have performed well for Utah after having issues at previous schools.
• The Ute women’s basketball team will enjoy a weekend off after a strong showing Wednesday in a 95-51 win at Eastern Washington. Coach Lynne Roberts spoke of her displeasure after a somewhat sloppy win over Idaho State on Monday, and her team responded well. Utah (5-0) will open a four-game homestand Monday, facing Seattle at the Huntsman Center.
• Utah’s young volleyball team keeps battling. The Utes downed No. 15 USC in three sets on the road Wednesday, as Dani Drews posted 22 kills – a school record for a three-set match in the rally-scoring era.
The Utes (17-13, 9-10 Pac-12) will host Colorado at noon Friday at the Huntsman Center to conclude the regular season. Utah stands eighth in the highly competitive Pac-12, but is only one game out of a fifth-place tie that includes Colorado.