Utah proves its Pac-12 worthiness
SALT LAKE CITY --- Before Utah beat the team picked this preseason to win a BCS conference Thursday night, the Utes beat Oklahoma and USC.
Don't go logging on to
So when Cullen called Utah coach
But even Whittingham didn't know until after the Utes opened their season with a 27-24 overtime win against Pittsburgh that he'd answered that glaring question so well. Cullen, playing his first Division I game, stonewalled
This is part of the reason Utah is headed to the soon-to-be Pac-12 and could contend quickly after entering the conference in 2011. Like
The other part of the on-field equation is Whittingham's ability to find players no one else wants and turn them into stars. When
On the first play of overtime, Blechen stepped in front of Shanahan near the sideline and intercepted
"I don't think icing the kicker works," Phillips said. "I actually get a better look at it."
As Phillips spoke those words late Thursday, Whittingham shook his head. He had called timeout twice to ice Pitt kicker
There might not have been an overtime period had Panthers receiver
The play typified the night for the Panthers, who burned most of their opportunities with penalties or careless mistakes. "We did things tonight just from a penalty standpoint," Wannstedt said, "that give you no chance to win."
Baldwin can probably be forgiven for his excitement on the fourth-quarter play. For the first three quarters, it seemed no one on Pitt's coaching staff realized the Panthers had one of the nation's best receivers on the roster. On two separate red zone possessions, the 6-foot-5 Baldwin was covered by 6-0 cornerback
On the other side of the field, the Utes seemed to know everything the Panthers would do before they did it. "I watched more film in the last week and a half than I have my whole life," Cullen said. Whittingham said his staff did a good job preparing the players, but he said the players studied plenty of film on their own.
What the win says about the Utes remains to be seen. We think Pitt is a top-25 team, but we won't really know for a few more weeks. Utah certainly looked like a top-20 team with a few rough edges left to iron out. In their final year in the Mountain West, the Utes should have fairly smooth sailing until an Oct. 30 game at Air Force. The next week, Utah hosts TCU. A week later, it travels to Notre Dame. Then we'll know as much as we can.
Whittingham won't let his team think about going undefeated or about attempting to crash the BCS title game. The Utes start Mountain West play next week against UNLV. Whittingham wants his players to think about winning the Mountain West. Everything else is out of their control. This will be the last year Whittingham has to say that. Utah received a golden ticket in June, and the Utes proved again Thursday that -- at least competitively -- they'll make a fine addition to the Pac-12.
Rival BYU has dominated the headlines in the Beehive State in recent weeks. The Cougars proved their football future is bright when they announced on Wednesday their impending independence, an ESPN contract
As the Utes celebrated Thursday, a fan held up a sign. It read: "Independence=Nobody Likes You. Best Summer Ever." If Thursday is any indication, the best summer ever could turn into one heck of a fall.