Opponent: Utah Utes
Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham
Whittingham played linebacker for the BYU Cougars in the late 1970s through 1981 under famed head coach Lavell Edwards. Whittingham was a part of a BYU squad that went 43-8 while he was a player. As a senior, Kyle earned First Team All-WAC honors and WAC Defensive Player of the Year plus Defensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl when BYU beat Washington State 38-36.
Whittingham started coaching in 1985 and eventually came to Utah in 1994. After a year as the defensive line coach, Whittingham became the defensive coordinator in 1995. He was the defensive coordinator for Utah in 2004 when then head coach Urban Meyer led the Utes to a 12-0 record and beat the Pitt Panthers in the Fiesta Bowl, becoming the first non-BCS team to win a BCS game. #ESP
Whittingham took over head coaching duties in 2005 when Urban Meyer left Utah for the SEC pastures of Florida and Tim Tebow. Since becoming head coach, Kyle has won 110 games and 10 bowl games in 13 seasons with Utah.
Utah installed a new offense this season, opting for a more “Big-12” like pass-first, tempo oriented system under first year coordinator Troy Taylor. The results are a mixed bag. Utah averaged 29.5 points a game this season, good for 58th in the country. The pass happy offense generated 256 yards per game through the air, good for 43rd nationally. The system however de-emphasized the run game leading to a drop in run production. The Utes averaged 160 yards per game at barely 4 yards per carry. This lack of run production doesn’t seem to be suited for taking advantage of West Virginia’s porous run defense.
The Utes ran their offense through sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley. Huntley threw for over 2,200 yards at 65% with 15 touchdowns but 10 interceptions. Huntley looks to be a bit injury prone, suffering two separate injuries this season. His latest injury, suffered during a 33-30 loss to Washington kept Huntley from playing in the regular season finale against Colorado.
Backup senior quarterback Troy Williams is not nearly the passer Huntley is, completing only 54% of his passes for 812 yards, 2 touchdowns and four interceptions. If Huntley is unable to play, West Virginia would do well to take advantage of Williams tendency to give the ball away.
The rushing game is carried through sophomore running back Zack Moss. Moss broke the 1,000 yard barrier this year, averaging 5.3 yards per carry including a punishing 26-carry, 175 yard effort against the Colorado Buffaloes. The problem for Utah is that Moss accounted for over 52% of their rushing and quarterback Tyler Huntley added another 480 yards. There is little depth behind Moss, meaning if you can stop him, the run threat is neutralized.
Senior Darren Carrington led the Utes in receptions and yards this season. Carrington has a chance to break the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his career in his last collegiate bowl game. The Mountaineers will also want to keep an eye on sophomore Siaosi Wilson. Wilson only caught 20 passes this year and 1 touchdown, but those 20 passes went for over 19 yards per catch. Wilson can fly and will stretch the Mountaineers defense.