One piece of bad news coming out of the University of Utah’s win at Colorado on Saturday was Dalton Kincaid leaving the game before halftime with an injury.
On Monday, Kyle Whittingham offered some good news on his All-Pac-12 tight end as preparations for Friday night’s Pac-12 championship game vs. USC begin.
“We expect him to play,” Whittingham said. “It’s not a guarantee, but we’ll see what happens.”
Cam Rising’s third and final touchdown pass against the Buffaloes, a 29-yard toss to Kincaid in the back of the end zone, was marred when Kincaid landed hard. He stayed down for an extended period of time, before getting up gingerly. Kincaid was able to walk to the locker room under his own power, albeit surrounded by medical personnel. His day was done at that point after five catches for 102 yards and the touchdown.
Whittingham said postgame that “hopefully” Kincaid would be alright, offering that the initial diagnosis at Folsom Field did not reveal anything that appeared too serious. The 18th-year Utes head coach went on to confirm that the injury is unrelated to the shoulder injury Kincaid suffered at Washington State on Oct. 27, which cost him the Arizona game on Nov. 5 and caused him to be used in a limited capacity vs. Stanford on Nov. 12.
Kincaid’s presumed inclusion on Friday night at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas brings with it a key storyline after he caught his 16 catches for 234 yards, both career-highs, and a touchdown helped the Utes outlast the Trojans, 43-42, at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Oct. 15.
That remains 11-1 USC’s lone loss as it now finds itself in a position to likely get to the College Football Playoff with a win on Friday. Only once in the history of the CFP has a 1-loss Power Five champion, Ohio State in 2018, not been included in the 4-team event.
“We’ve just been featuring him more and more, and he’s been making more and more plays,” Whittingham said. “You saw the catch he got dinged up on in the Colorado game, that was spectacular, so it’s just a matter of continuing to maximize his skill set and understanding how incredible that skill set is. Bottom line, he’s a terrific talent, and a guy that every week, we need to target a bunch of times.”
Kincaid currently leads Utah in receptions (66), receiving yards (650) and receiving touchdowns (8). The Las Vegas native sits inside the top 8 in the Pac-12 in all three categories.
Slowing down Caleb Williams
A key to Utah’s win over USC in the first meeting was the ability of the defense to better contain Caleb Williams, who passed for 381 yards, but just 132 in the second half on 9-for-15 passing.
Since that night, but especially in the last two weeks in wins over UCLA and Notre Dame, the Trojans sophomore quarterback has amped up his level of play to the point where he is now the prohibitive frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy.
The transformation of Utah’s defense, as inconsistent as it was through the first six weeks of the season, began during the second half against the Trojans. If the Utes want to go to the Rose Bowl, they again need to figure out a way to make sure Williams isn’t doing whatever he wants.
“He’s been great every game, show me a game where he’s not great,” Whittingham said. “I think he just keeps getting better and better. He’s maybe the most difficult quarterback to sack we’ve ever come across that is also a great throwing threat. We’ve played some really athletic quarterbacks that you might liken to a wide receiver playing QB, but nobody is harder to sack than that guy. He keeps the plays alive, he extends the plays, he keeps his eyes downfield incredibly well during the scrambles.
“He very rarely glances at the rush, he’s always seeing peripherally and it seems like he has eyes in the back of his head. Some of the escapes he has are just fantastic, and he’s only 20 years old, second year out of high school, a true sophomore. What he’s doing is very impressive.”
For the season, Williams has thrown for 3,712 yards and 34 touchdowns against just three interceptions. His QBR of 86.8 is good for No. 2 in the Pac-12 and No. 5 nationally.
Will Clark Phillips be ready?
Utah’s star cornerback could be key in keeping Williams in check.
But will Clark Phillips III be ready to play Friday?
Phillips, who went through warmups last weekend in Boulder before ultimately being held out of action, is a question mark as the Utes prepare for the Trojans.
“We hope so, we hope so,” Whittingham said when asked about the defensive back’s availability. “Can’t say definitively right now.”