Wilson leads No. 10 Utah into national conversation
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah quarterback Travis Wilson has heard the criticism over the years and understands it comes with the position. Fans love him when he plays well, but that has been hit or miss throughout his career.
The No. 10 Utes, however, displayed a shockingly different offense during a 62-20 rout of Oregon on Saturday that was sparked by the senior quarterback's effort.
''That was Travis' best game as a Ute,'' Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. ''Changes the whole dynamic of the offense when Travis is so accurate and so good with his throws. That loosens everything up for (Devontae) Booker and everyone else in the run game. It makes us a complete offense.''
Wilson threw for 227 yards and a career-high four touchdowns while adding 100 rushing yards and another score. It was just the second time he's rushed for 100 yards. The 62 points were the most Utah has scored in a Pac-12 game since joining the league in 2011.
The Utah offense has leaned heavily on the run game and Booker since he emerged last season. The defense and special teams are traditionally a strong suit for the Utes. That scheme earned them a 3-0 start and a No. 18 ranking. Saturday's Utes, the one with a prolific quarterback, trounced an Oregon team that played in the national championship game early this year.
Utah is now a legit Pac-12 contender if Wilson can harness last week's magic. Remember, this is the same quarterback that was benched twice last year and had to win the job during fall camp.
''I know a lot of people doubt me and doubt my ability,'' Wilson said. ''That's something that pushes me and motivates me to do better.''
Senior receiver Kenneth Scott said teammates have gone out of their way to express confidence in Wilson. He said physical issues haven't been a problem for the quarterback - Wilson just has to believe in himself. Scott also defended the receivers, saying there are plenty of playmakers outside of Booker on offense - they just needed the opportunity.
The talent may have been there, but the production was not and the Utes ranked No. 108 in passing offense before the Oregon game. Utah hadn't been very aggressive and Wilson's longest completion in the first three games was 22 yards.
''I don't think people understand and listen,'' Scott said. ''We didn't have to feel the need to throw the ball downfield because we were so in control of every game. There was hardly any situations where we were second-and-long, third-and-long. ... It's just all about us taking advantage of what we've got.''
Fair or not, the outlook for the rest of the season changed for Utah on Saturday. Expectations of Wilson and the offense spiked now that there's proof that the forward pass isn't just used to give Booker a breather. Wilson showed the ability to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage and be a threat in the read-option game, all while playing with a sprained shoulder that kept him off the field against Fresno State.
The College Football Playoff becomes a topic of discussion once a team ranks in the Top 10.
''Don't even go there,'' Whittingham said. ''That's not even in the realm of our thought process.''
Utah has a bye this week then hosts No. 24 California. The Golden Bears, No. 17 USC and No. 7 UCLA are the ranked teams left on the Utes' schedule. Cal, Utah and UCLA are the only undefeated teams remaining in the Pac-12.
The Utes can be a legit contender in the South division if the newfound passing game continues to flourish.
''The offense really feeds off how I'm playing,'' Wilson said. ''So, I need to keep playing like I have been.''