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Whitt must change mentality for Utes to succeed

Kyle Whittingham would rather win on the backs of defense. But it's his offense that has established a clearer path to success.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Whittingham is a defensive-first kinda guy and because of that, Saturday's performance by his defense was probably extra painful to watch. He's said it since taking over the Utes' head job in 2005 - he would rather play ball control offense and let the defense make the plays to win the big games.

Those big plays never happened Saturday.

I'm sure Whitt waited, like many of the fans in attendance, for his defense to step up and create one turnover to preserve the win - whether it was on the 4th down late in the game or Oregon State's successful touchdown to win it in overtime.

But this defense isn't good enough for that. It just isn't. Now Whittingham has to go against everything he ever knew and rely on his offense to win him games.

It's a radical adjustment and I think you saw the evolution of this adjustment last weekend. But it didn't stop Utah from going ultra-conservative in the overtime period - a result that ultimately cost 'em the game. I don't know if Whittingham had anything to do with that series, but frankly, it had his fingerprints all over it.

There was nothing imaginative or aggressive about Utah's overtime performance. It was the exact opposite of what they displayed throughout the final three quarters of the game. It also cost 'em the win. It was as if Whittingham anticipated his defense would finally get that stop and vindicate the dogma that has dominated his coaching all these years.

That's in the past now, though.

Utah has an offense. It's their strength. They need to be aggressive and unpredictable. They need to utilize Travis Wilson and James Poole and also get the tight ends more involved. I know it goes against everything Whittingham believes, but this team needs to out-gun pretty much every opponent and that's going to require letting Dennis Erickson do his thing. No more pulling back - it's all about scoring and scoring often.

This Saturday, against BYU, the team needs a hawkish game-plan built around the offensive talent. I don't want to see a run up the middle on the first few plays, and it's imperative they get Wilson going early, setting a tone that could help establish a pretty fluid performance.

No more going conservative. They're not going to win with that type of play calling. That means Whittingham has to step out of his comfort zone, realize his defense is flawed, and ask his more improved and impressive offense to win him the games.

If they do that, the Utes might actually have a fighting chance this year.