Travis Wilson needs to grow exponentially this week and guide Utah's season back on course. That's a great deal of pressure for a quarterback who still hasn't completed an entire season at Utah.
The sophomore, who I've advocated for much of the season, has struggled at times this year - either from throwing interceptions or forced to face a stingy injury the last two and a half games. But for the Utes to salvage this season, to actually lurch toward bowl eligibility and build some type of foundation the coaches can work on in 2014 and beyond, he needs to put both behind him and step up.
For Wilson, Saturday is gut check time.
At his Monday press conference, Kyle Whittingham once again reiterated his hope for Wilson to play. He did the same two weeks ago, and that proved premature. I'm hoping he isn't making the same mistake.
If Wilson is back, and god hoping he is, he needs to return to the Old Wilson. The one who, after throwing a pick six, turned around and got Utah back into the game against Oregon State. We need the Wilson who is unflinching, tough, aggressive and capable of shrugging off a poor play or drive. He needs to do that because this game can't, and won't, be won on the defensive end. Sure, they could keep the Utes in it - but as was the case two weeks ago against the Trojans, you at least need some offensive firepower to win.
ASU is too good offensively, and too athletic and fast, to believe they can be stopped. So, the only hope, as it was against Oregon State, is to out score 'em.
Even still, it isn't all on Wilson. I don't want to sound like I'm thrusting everything onto his shoulders. That's not fair. He's just one man and we can't forget that. For the offense to click and succeed, it's going to take a team effort - starting with Wilson and moving on down to the offensive line and then over to Dres Anderson. I bring up Anderson because, while he's been exceptional at times, a great deal of Wilson's interceptions are on him. We can't afford him catching the ball with cement gloves. We can't afford tipped passes that should be caught but aren't for whatever reason.
Yes, it's gut check time. Is Utah ready for it?
Last year, against another Arizona school, the Utes couldn't get it done - even though they led entering the fourth quarter. It was an embarrassing defeat that doomed 'em to a losing record and started this whole questioning thing. While Saturday won't do that, as Utah will still have three games to win two (really, two to win two when you discount the Oregon game), it's hard to imagine, as I said yesterday, they come back from four-straight losses to win on the road. That is not an enviable position to be in and can be avoided with a victory this weekend.
So, when you get down to it, this game is as much a must-win as it can be without it technically being a must-win. I guess that means it 's a need-to-win-or-else and those games shouldn't be lost because too much hinges on 'em. If Utah leaves RES with a 4-5 record and another humiliating defeat to the Sun Devils, is there any coming back from that?
I hope we don't have to ever find out.
Truly, Saturday is gut check time for everyone - including the coaches. Sometimes you just have to find a way to win. This weekend is exactly that - Utah needs to find a way to win. They just have to.
It's time to brush off the last few weeks and step it up.
The season might just depend on it.