SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – When Utah walked off the field two months ago after losing to Washington 21-7, senior linebacker Cody Barton made a bold prediction.
“I’m confident that we’ll see them again in the Pac-12 championship and that we’re going to win the South,” Barton said on September 15th.
Turns out, he was right.
“I just had a lot of confidence in what I was going to say,” Barton said on Monday. “I thought about it, and it’s something I felt. I put it out there because I believe in this team.”
“I’m really excited to see them again,” said offensive lineman Jackson Barton. “My brother said we were going to see them again. Obviously, I should have listened to him. I’m really happy to see them. I feel like we’ve gotten a lot better throughout the season. I know they’ve gotten a lot better throughout the season.”
This is the first time since 1945 the Utes have played a team twice in the same season, which was news to Kyle Whittingham.
“OK, well I wasn’t here then,” Whittingham said. “Close, I came like a year later. We competed well, but we just couldn’t generate any offense at that point and time.”
But now with Jason Shelley at quarterback, the Utes have averaged 32 points per game in the three games he started since Tyler Huntley went down with a collarbone injury, and hasn’t turned the ball over once.
“Shelley is just a really humble person,” Jackson Barton said. “He’s a really cool cat. I never seem him get flustered on the sideline or get angry. He keeps his emotions checked at all times, and I love that about him.”
“He’s done a great job taking care of the football ever since he became the starter,” added Whittingham. “I think that confidence and that poise is critical in a quarterback.”
A key will be a fast start. In eight games this year, the Utes have faced a first quarter deficit, so they’ve been living dangerously.
“I just mentioned that to the team last night at the meeting,” Whittingham said. “It’s OK to start good and to not have bad things happen early. So, that’s something that will be an emphasis this week is try to get a little faster start.”
It took eight years to get here, but the Utes hope this game will become a fixture on the schedule in years to come.
“We knew that we were going to be the team going to the championship,” Cody Barton said. “That’s something that we believed in ourselves, so we take a lot of pride in that. We hope that in the future years of Utah football, that this is a trend that we start setting.”
The Utes and Huskies will play Friday at 6:00 p.m. at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.