Stevens: Utah Comes To Lobo Land Ranked, Loaded & Looking For Big Win
Sept. 16, 2010
Tailgate Challenge: 3 p.m. to 3:30 Gate 8, North Side
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Jordan Wynn or Terrance Cain? Does it make a difference which quarterback the Utah Utes throw at the New Mexico Lobos Saturday in University Stadium?
Up in Salt Lake City, the word is it doesn't make a difference. The Utes' loyal think Utah will roll no matter who stands in the pocket and looks at the Lobo defense that is bending to an average of 591 yards in two losses.
In Albuquerque, the Lobos don't think it makes a difference either. The Lobos plan to upset the No. 14-ranked Utes regardless of whether sore-thumbed Wynn commands the huddle or the star-to-be Cain.
Star status comes with a steady roll of crowd-pleasing performances. Jack Nicholson had a way to go after "Easy Rider." But Cain is able and already has received one standing ovation in Salt Lake City after he led the Utes to a 38-10 squashing of UNLV.
"He went about his business," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.
Yeah, business-like is one way to put Cain's first start of the season and his ninth start as a Ute. He passed for a cool 207 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was 13-of-20 and was not sacked.
"We played pretty good football against UNLV," said Whittingham.
Utah and Cain probably would have had gaudier stats had the Utes snapped the ball more than 47 times. The Utes' problem? They were too productive on offense, averaging 7.0 yards per play.
They also got points and field position from Skaky Smithson, the Mountain West's Special Teams Player of The Week with his five punts returns for a 25.6 average and a 77-yard.
Exactly what the Lobos need to see, a top-quality returner. Smithson also pulled in a pass good for a 55-yard TD.
The Utes were smooth last Saturday vs. the Rebels. Eddie Wide rushed for 77 yards and two scores, Jereme Brooks had four grabs for 77 yards and a TD.
If there are any Lobo fans who love to watch a quality linebacker, they might get the chance whether or not UNM's sore-ankled Carmen Messina makes the field. Utah has a success story in Chaz Walker, who turned down a couple of scholarship offers to walk-on as a Ute.
Walker had a career-high 16 tackles against UNLV. Whittingham says his 5-foot-11 junior from Farmington, Utah, has been "beyond productive." Walker is an example of what happens when you have a program and a team. The system just keeps kicking out and kicking up talent. The Lobos are young and depth-challenged. The Utes are not.
As a team, the Utes are trying to kick out yet another group capable of challenging the BCS dominance in the chase for postseason glory. Next year, the Utes don't have to worry about that. They are bolting from the Mountain West and into the waiting arms of the Pac-10.
Still, Utah wants to make a big splash in 2010 and making a big splash on the scoreboard at University Stadium might help the No. 14 Utes climb up the national polls. Like Oregon and Texas Tech, the Utes are looking for a big win over the Lobos. Like Oregon and Tech, the Utes are very good.
Utah is 2-0 with wins over nationally ranked Pittsburgh in overtime and a 28-point win over UNLV. The Utes are 26-3 going back to the 2008 season. Wynn went into the season as the No. 1 QB, but hurt a thumb at Pittsburgh. He might play against UNM, but Cain is capable, athletic and motivated to keep the pocket. Cain is 8-1 as a starter.
The Utes are big favorites based on record, ranking and tradition. The statistics, so far in 2010, lean their way, too.
The Lobos average 61 yards rushing per game, 209 yards passing and 270 total yards. Utah averages 126 on the ground, 245 passing and 371 total.
UNM gives up an average of 591 yards per game: 260.5 on the ground and 330.5 through the air. Utah yields an average of 92 rushing, 200 passing and 292 total.
Here's a key stat: UNM has punted 13 times and the enemy has booted the ball away only twice.
Utah's win over UNLV was a solid one on the scoreboard, but not that impressive on the stats sheet. Vegas had four more first downs, only 19 fewer yards in total offense, and had possession of the ball almost 13 more minutes.
Utah definitely won the kicking game and it's defense clamped down hard on Vegas when the Rebs scratched into the red zone. Whittingham is a coach who believes in defense. He was Urban Myer's defensive coordinator before Myer bolted.