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Devaughn Vele practices well.
Kyle Whittingham has said so, as has Britain Covey, and wide receivers coach Chad Bumphis. Vele looks good outside the spotlight, but everyone has been waiting for Vele to look good when it matters most.
That moment came at USC. With Solomon Enis unavailable due to injury, Vele, a third-year freshman, caught four passes for 84 yards, including a 37-yard flea-flicker touchdown from Rising late in the second quarter of a 42-26 win at the LA Coliseum.
“It was awesome,” Vele said. “The biggest thing I pride myself on is doing my best for the team. Always making sure I’m doing my part, always making sure I’m doing my job, owning my square feet of land. In this USC game, I got the opportunity to show what I can do, what I can contribute to this team.”
Added Whittingham: “He has practiced exceptionally well, made plays in practice, and it was good to see that translate into a game. We targeted him a few more times than we have been, and he responded and made the plays. That’s who we believe he can be week in and week out.”
It’s a good thing Vele practices well, because last week, Bumphis was asking the 6-foot-4, 205-pound San Diego native to do a lot. In preparing for the Trojans, Vele was asked to know three different receiver positions, and he handled it.
Now, we’ll see if Vele can handle an Arizona State defense that is yielding just 181 passing yards per game, which is good for third in the Pac-12 and 20th nationally.
“You see what he can do,” Bumphis said. “He’s just a freak athletically. I love the way he works, I love the way he attacks the day, and it was good for him for it to pay off under the lights.”
What’s on my mind, Utah or otherwise
• I have a deep-dive story out today on Cam Rising that I think Utah fans will enjoy. Come for the resistance bands and the PlayStation Portables, stay for the Ty Jordan anecdote at the end.
• History is not going to be kind to Charlie Brewer, who finally entered the NCAA Transfer Portal on Thursday. The more Utah wins, and the better Rising plays, the worse it’s going to be. That really isn’t totally fair to Brewer, but it is what it is.
• By about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday evening, we will know how seriously to take Utah as a Pac-12 South contender. If the Utes beat Arizona State, they are in sole possession of first place in the division. If the Sun Devils win, they are in sole possession of first place, while owning tiebreakers over the Utes and UCLA. The one-loss Bruins are at Washington on Saturday night. An Arizona State win over the Utes, and a UCLA loss in Seattle, and Sun Devils fans can begin making loose plans to be in Las Vegas for the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 3.
• Good on Craig Smith for scheduling an exhibition with crosstown Division II Westminster College on Nov. 4, five days before the regular-season opener vs. Abilene Christian. Westminster was scheduled to play at the Huntsman Center in an exhibition last season, but it got canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The guaranteed money attached to the exhibition — last year it was $5,000 — is negligible. It is good experience for Westminster, and goodwill shown by Smith and the Utah athletic department. It would make sense for this to be an annual thing.
• The Utah athletic department publicly imploring fans to show up on time Saturday night, even offering discounted concessions during the first hour the Rice-Eccles Stadium gates are open, is not great. It’s an 8 p.m. kickoff, against a ranked opponent, with first place in the Pac-12 South on the line. This is also the first home game since Aaron Lowe’s death, and oh, it’s an 8 p.m. kickoff. There should be no need to implore fans to show up on time, let alone early. I admit, a 5:30 p.m. kickoff on a Thursday night vs Weber State and a 12:30 p.m. kickoff vs. Washington State were both tough asks, to have people in their seats at kickoff. An 8 p.m. kickoff on a Saturday night with something at stake is different.
• If Utah wins on Saturday night, the term “team of destiny” is going to start getting tossed around, probably pretty liberally.
• If this Utah season turns into something special, remember this one play: Late second quarter, USC up 10-7 and with momentum. On third-and-7 from their own 28-yard line, Rising hits Theo Howard for 42 yards to the USC 30. That play felt like a complete shift in who was in control. Rising to Money Parks three plays later for a 12-yard score, the now-famous Rising-to-Vele flea-flicker to end the first half, and Utah cruised. Rising to Howard on third down felt like a big deal.
• The latest version of USA TODAY’s exhaustive college football head coach salary database was released on Thursday. As far as Kyle Whittingham goes, the noteworthy portion of his salary figure is that he gave back almost $366,000 in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. We knew Whittingham gave back some money, we just didn’t have a dollar figure. Also, yes, that is really what Stanford head coach David Shaw makes.