Wilson will start against USC, but QB battle far from over

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Football Feature 3

Leading up to the Utes’ victory over Oregon State, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham chose to not announce to the public who his starting quarterback would be. He’s chosen to take a different route heading into the game against USC.

On Monday, Utah announced that Travis Wilson would again be its starting quarterback.

“I kind of played that strategy game last week of not announcing, but we figured that this week, let’s just announce it and be done with it and move on,” Whittingham said.

Though Wilson will be the starter against the Trojans, Whittingham made it clear the competition between Wilson and Kendal Thompson for the lead signal-caller is far from over. Whittingham said there was a strong chance both quarterbacks would see the field Saturday and he is looking for one of the two to seize the opportunity and create separation.

“Ideally we would like some separation to occur and one guy to take charge and settle and be the guy, but that hasn’t happened yet,” Whittingham said. “So they’re both going to get opportunities until that does happen.”

The Utah head coach has said time after time that he will not run a two-quarterback system, and he doesn’t see himself changing that approach. In the last two games — victories over UCLA and Oregon State — the quarterback that started the game, wasn’t the one that finished it. He said it was a strong possibility that both Thompson and Wilson will see time on Saturday, but he doesn’t consider it a two-QB system.

Whittingham hasn’t — and won’t — set up a game plan in which each quarterback has a specific number of snaps or game time. The last two weeks he made the quarterback change because he felt that the offense needed a boost.

“Anytime we think that making a change is going to give us a spark, then that’s when we’re going to do it,” Whittingham said. “If we’re not getting the production we need we will look at making a change.”

Wilson was named the starter but hardly got a ringing endorsement from his head coach. However, his coach did say that Wilson did win the job, if only temporarily, because of his performance over the course of the season.

“We think Travis’ performance is a little bit better so far this season than Kendal’s overall,” Whittingham said. “When you look at the numbers, it’s very close. Kendal has ran the ball a little bit better than Travis has, and Travis has thrown the ball a little bit better than Kendal.”

Wilson ranked among the leaders in the nation in passing efficiency after Utah’s first two games, but has struggled since the Utes began playing Pac-12 opponents. Over the course of three conference games, Wilson is just 25 of 53 for 215 yards.

Wilson and Thompson haven’t been helped much by their receivers lately, as the entire corps has struggled to hold on to the ball.

While the quarterbacks and receivers have struggled, running back Devontae Booker has carried the load. After rushing for 229 yards against the Beavers, Booker has rushed for 563 yards in Pac-12 play to lead the Utes to victory.

Whittingham said that his team has been winning because of defense, special teams and the running game. He suspects that won’t be enough down the road.

“We got to throw the ball better,” Whittingham said. “We know that, we all know that. We have to catch the ball better and protect better.”

Wilson is once again the starter, but his time under center could be short-lived if he struggles again.

Let another round of try-outs begin.

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