SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utes football team is on a roll. Utah has won three straight games, and sits atop the Pac-12 South standings.
“This is what we had in mind and what we’d envisioned,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “It just took us a little bit to get there.”
After all they’ve been though this year, with the death of teammate Aaron Lowe, not to mention losses to BYU and San Diego State, the Utes are finally having fun again this season.
“This team is really fun to be around,” Whittingham said. “There’s a lot of great leaders. The leadership has been outstanding from the onset. But the personality of this team is just more jovial and they’re having a lot of fun.”
“Absolutely, it makes it easier when you’re out there smiling and not just mad all the time,” added quarterback Cam Rising. “It can get a little hard during those situations. We’ve been through a lot of stuff, so we’ve got to smile through it.”
Whether it’s Cam Rising acknowledging Kyle Whittingham’s mom knocking on the window during a postgame press conference, or Kyle Whittingham making fun of Britain Covey’s flex, which drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, there is laughter and joy in the air again.
“Is that what he did, flexed?” Whittingham said after Utah’s 35-21 win over Arizona State on Saturday. “I thought he was going to take his helmet off and show how the Rogaine is working.
Whittingham backed up those comments at Monday’s press conference.
“I give him that grief all day everyday, so that’s nothing new, he said. “He’s a great kid and he’s very proud of the results of his Rogaine, it’s working.”
Not to mention the size of Covey’s guns.
“I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get randomly drug tested,” the diminutive Covey joked.
The biggest reason for the Utes turnaround as been the play of Rising. In his last two games, Rising has completed 43 of 61 passes for 553 yards, five touchdowns, while rushing for 86 yards and two more touchdowns.
This past week, Rising became the first Utes player ever to win Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week award in consecutive weeks.
“It speaks volumes on the receivers, the o-line, the tight ends, the running backs,” said Rising, never one to boast about his own performance. “Just having those guys makes it easy for me.”
“With Cam back there, he’s helping out with the momentum and energy,” said tight end Brant Kuithe, who had two touchdown catches against the Sun Devils. “Anytime we get low, he just kind of boosts us up and gives us the energy and drive that we need.”
Utah may not be putting entire 60-minute performances together during its three-game win streak. But they certainly are dominating the second half.
In victories over Washington State, USC and Arizona State, the Utes have outscored their opponents in the second half 66-23, including a 28-0 closeout against the Sun Devils.
“I think we are playing good defense overall, just so happens to be that we’re playing a little better in the second half than the first right now,” Whittingham said. “This year, for whatever reason, we’ve proved to be a pretty good second half team. Our fourth quarter scoring differential is really good, so we seem to be a little stronger in the second half this year.”
“I think that just speaks on our offseason program, what the coaches had us do,” said Rising. “Making sure that we really focus on finishing everything that we do and that’s paying dividends.”
The Utes (4-2, 3-0 Pac-12) look to stay in first place this Saturday at Oregon State.