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Arizona vs. Utah Cliff Notes

Some quick notes before the Wildcats take on the Utes

USC v Utah Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

The Series

Utah is 20-19-2 against Arizona all time with the Utes winning the first game 32-7 in 1924. The Wildcats have won the last four games, highlighted by last year’s 37-30 double overtime thriller. The Utah-UA rivalry is the second-oldest rivalry in the conference for the Utes. (“The Rumble in the Rockies” series against Colorado is the oldest one that dates back to 1903). Saturday marks the third time Utah will host Arizona for its homecoming weekend; the Utes have won both prior meetings. The Utes will be wearing throwback threads, which means the equipment department will spend an average of 6 minutes and 30 seconds to “clean and decal” every helmet.

Whittingham nears 100

Head Coach Kyle Whittingham is 99-47 in season 12 at Utah, and is searching for victory No. 100 on Saturday. Whittingham broke into football coaching on the Utah staff in 1994 and notched his first win as head coach against Arizona in the 2005 season opener. He owns a 9-1 bowl game record. That is the highest bowl winning percentage in NCAA history.

Three-prong rushing attack

Utah employs a three-pronged rushing attack fronted by true freshman Zack Moss. He leads the squad with 309 yards on 66 carries even though he missed one game earlier this year. Sophomore Armand Shyne is the number two man who has 272 yards on 59 carries. Junior Troy McCormick has 196 yards but averages 5.4 yards per carry, the highest among the three.

The trio benefits from a stout offensive line that leads the conference in fewest sacks allowed per game. However, senior captain center and the unquestioned leader, J.J. Dielman, suffered a season-ending leg injury last week. This ends the collegiate career for the Desert Vista high school alum (he played in five games this season that disqualifies him from filing for a medical hardship waiver for an additional year of eligibility).

Punters are People Too

Ute sophomore punter Mitch Wishnowsky leads the nation with a 50.6 average. He had an average of 39.8 yards per punt for Santa Barbara College in 2014, sat out 2015 and transferred. Wishnowsky hails from Gosnells, Western Australia, stands at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, and punts both rugby and traditional styles. This year he has a big leg to fill in replacing fellow countryman and two-time Ray Guy award winner Tom Hackett.

It’s no fluke Wishnowsky and Hackett are big assets to the Utes’ kicking game. The Aussies are products of Prokick Australia, an academy for kicking. The organization boasts 50 punter alums in the NCAA and flaunts a mustwatch smashmouth highlight video.

Notable Ute Alums

Current Arizona President Dr. Ann Weaver Hart frontlines the Utah distinguished alumni list. She picked up three degrees at Utah that include a bachelor of science, a master of arts in history, and a doctorate in educational administration. Other notable alumni include David Neelman, the founder of JetBlue Airways, Robert Jarvik, who invented an artificial heart, and Evelyn Wood, who invented a speed-reading program.

“MUSS?”

The Utah student athletic fan club named itself “MUSS” in 2002 after pulling the word from the second verse of the school fight song “Utah Man”: …We’re up to snuff; we never bluff, We’re game for any fuss, No other game of college men dare meet us in the muss….

The MUSS noun definition is “a state of disorder”. Used as verb, it’s the action of making a noun “untidy or messy”. The adopted term stands for the “Mighty Utah Student Section” as the organized rabid fan base attends football, men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and baseball games. The MUSS football section is at capacity for the entire season as Utah is in the midst of 41 straight stadium sellouts. A full house is expected for Saturday’s game against Arizona to extend the streak.

What’s in the Scrapbook?

The 1994 Freedom Bowl loss was a painful one for the Arizona Desert Swarm era. Led by Tedy Bruschi, the Wildcats finished second in the Pac-10 Conference at 8-3 and ranked No. 13 in the country. Meanwhile, Utah came into the game 10-1 and ranked No. 12 in the polls. Arizona stifled the Utes, holding the offense to five first downs and 75 total offense yards, but the UA offense was non-existent as the Wildcats mustered only 184 yards, had three turnovers, and willingly took a safety. A big Utah return inside the UA five yard line on the ensuing free kick and a miracle fourth down touchdown pass in the waning minutes clinched the Utah win. The game is ranked No. 4 on “The Greatest Utah Football Games Ever” list.