Kyle Whittingham closes in on Utah football career wins record as lowly Arizona looms

Coach one victory away from tying Ike Armstrong’s 141 wins, amassed from 1925-49

University of Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and his 140 career victories are one shy of tying the program record, held by Ike Armstrong.

The beauty of Whittingham approaching that record is he apparently had no idea.

When the topic was broached Monday morning during Whittingham’s normal start-of-the-week press conference, he indicated he didn’t know he was approaching that mark, which has not even remotely been challenged since Armstrong’s tenure at Utah finished in 1949.

Whittingham looked to his right at an athletic department official, who confirmed that, yes, Whittingham is one win shy of tying Armstrong at 141 wins.

“It does things in terms of feeling fortunate and blessed of all the great players I’ve had the chance to coach and that have come through here,” Whittingham said. “That’s not my record, it’s a culmination of a bunch of really good players, a bunch of really good assistant coaches, a bunch of good support from the administration all tying together.

“That’s how I look at it.”

The potential record-tying win would come at the expense of the University of Arizona (Noon, Pac-12 Networks). The Wildcats snapped a 20-game losing streak over the weekend via a 10-3 decision over Cal, which was beset by missing scholarship players due to COVID-19 protocols.

The Utes still have everything to play for as they creep towards the Pac-12 South title and a berth in the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 3. Despite the win, the Wildcats are among the worst Power Five teams in the country.

That combination could lend itself to complacency this week, something Whittingham hopes to avoid.

“Sure hope not,” Whittingham said. “We will have team meetings today and address that very possibility, but the group we have here has great leadership. I know that they will handle it just like we have the past several weeks. We are settled into our routine, and it’s rinse and repeat. Every week, we do the same things.”

Utah (6-3, 5-1 Pac-12), which leads Arizona State by one game in the standings plus has the tiebreaker over the Sun Devils, can clinch the South Division title on Saturday with a win over Arizona plus an Arizona State loss at Washington.

The Huskies will be without head coach Jimmy Lake. Lake was suspended for the game without pay. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory will serve as acting head coach.

The suspension stems from a sideline incident in Washington’s 26-16 loss to rival Oregon on Saturday night. Lake was shown on national television attempting to separate walk-on linebacker Ruperake Fuavai from a sideline scrum by hitting him in the facemask, then shoving him in the back when he turned to walk away.

Adding to the program’s turmoil, Washington on Sunday fired much-maligned offensive coordinator John Donovan. Wide receivers coach Junior Adams is serving as interim offensive coordinator.

As Utah’s OL thrives, Whittingham noncommittal on Keaton Bills

Typical starting left guard Keaton Bills has missed the last two games due to injury. With Bills out, Nick Ford has slid over from center to left guard, with Paul Maile taking over Ford’s duties at center.

In two games with those lineup changes, Utah has run for a whopping 731 yards, including 441 on Friday in a one-sided win at Stanford.

The question now becomes, if and when Bills is ready to return, what should Whittingham do with his offensive line?

“We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it, because he’s not ready yet,” Whittingham said. “He may possibly be ready this week, but we haven’t gotten that affirmation yet. If it’s not broke, you don’t fix it, and things have been going pretty well that couple of weeks. That’s a credit to Paul Maile and Nick Ford.

“We’ll have to think long and hard about what we’re going to do when that situation arises.”

Utah-Colorado kickoff time set, Utah-Oregon TBD

The Nov. 26 regular-season finale between Utah and Colorado, which will act as Senior Day at Rice-Eccles Stadium, was announced on Monday morning as a 2 p.m. kickoff that will air nationally on FOX. That game will follow Kansas State-Texas, which will be a 10 a.m. kickoff in Austin.

Earlier Monday morning, as Nov. 20 kickoff times for games across the country were released — 12 days before those games are played — a high-profile matchup between Utah and No. 4 Oregon was placed in the six-day window. That means broadcast partners wanted some more time to decide what to do with the game. USC-UCLA was also marked as a six-day selection for Nov. 20.

Kickoff times and broadcast designations for Utah-Oregon and USC-UCLA could be released as early as Saturday afternoon, but no later than Sunday afternoon. The three start options for those two games are 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. (MT).