Which QB will No. 20 Utah choose for Oregon State?
CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — The big mystery for Thursday night’s game between No. 20 Utah and Oregon State is who the Utes will start at quarterback.
The depth chart lists Travis Wilson “or” Kendal Thompson, and earlier this week coach Kyle Whittingham wasn’t giving away his choice.
“It’s not a huge strategic move, but why tip your hand if you don’t have to, and we don’t have to. It’s not like the NFL where you have to declare what’s going on,” Whittingham said. “They’ve handled themselves very well in practice. You’d expect both of them to work hard like they have all year long. There is really no change in our approach in that regard.”
The 6-foot-7 Wilson has thrown for 788 yards and seven touchdowns this season, starting all five games for the Utes. But he lasted just three series into Utah’s 30-28 victory over UCLA before he was replaced by Thompson, a transfer from Oklahoma.
Thompson has thrown for 289 yards with two TDs this season, and he’s also rushed for 144 yards.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley said his only option was to prepare for both of them.
“Obviously, we have to prepare for both if they aren’t going to name their starter. They certainly have two very good players to pick from,” Riley said on the Pac-12 coaches’ teleconference. “We played against Travis (Wilson) last year, and he gave us all sorts of fits. Then the new guy has come in there also and done a good job. So it’s probably a good problem for Utah to deal with.”
Riley was in a similar situation two seasons ago, when Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz competed all season for the starter’s job, with both taking over when the other got hurt. Vaz has since graduated and Mannion remains the Beavers’ starter.
“We had a situation where they both had to always be on their toes every day in spring practice and fall camp, frankly, because I wasn’t sure. I think that helped them both become better players,” Riley said.
Here are some other things to look for when Oregon State (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) hosts Utah (4-1, 1-1) on Thursday night.
MANNION’S MARK: The prolific Oregon State quarterback needs 588 yards passing to break former Trojans QB Matt Barkley’s Pac-12 record of 12,327 yards passing. Earlier this season, the senior QB moved into the top spot on Oregon State’s career list, overtaking Derek Anderson.
COMING OFF BYES: Both teams had last weekend off. Oregon State is coming off a 36-31 victory at Colorado on Oct. 4, while Utah won at then-No. 8 UCLA. The Beavers have just two more road games this season, next week at Stanford and Nov. 22 at Washington. Utah’s remaining six are evenly balanced with three at home and three on the road.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Utah’s defense leads the nation with an average of 5.6 sacks a game. The unit is led by defensive end Nate Orchard, who sacked UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley four times, and currently leads the nation with 8.5 sacks this season. He’s also collected 24 tackles, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
SEUMALO’S STATUS: Oregon State center Isaac Seumalo is still recovering from two surgeries on a broken foot he sustained during the Hawaii Bowl last season. He’s been replaced by Josh Mitchell, but there are lingering questions about whether he’ll return this season at all. “It’s one of those ongoing things but it’s not around the corner, either,” Riley said.
THE LAST TIME: Mannion threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks in overtime to give the Beavers a 51-48 victory over Utah last year. Cooks, who has since departed for the New Orleans Saints, caught three touchdown passes in the win, which was Oregon State’s first in Salt Lake City since 1968.