Utah vs. UNLV boxscore

SALT LAKE CITY — Terrance Cain took the message from the coaches to heart. Jordan Wynn's backup at quarterback was told to "be prepared, stay prepared."

With Wynn nursing a sprained thumb, Cain was called into duty in Saturday's 38-10 victory over UNLV — making his first start since last Halloween. The senior upped his record as Utah's starter to 8-1 by completing 13-of-20 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns.

"It just felt great to be back out there again with my boys," Cain said.

The Utes got off to a slow start offensively but picked up the pace with scoring strikes from Cain late in the first half (a 20-yarder to Jereme Brooks) and early in the second (a 5-yarder to Shaky Smithson).

"We're blessed to have two great quarterbacks," Smithson said. "No matter which one is in, we believe that we can win and move the ball. So Terrance came in and proved that today."

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Wynn could have played in "an absolute emergency." That wasn't the case in the Utes' Mountain West Conference opener.

Whittingham has repeatedly expressed confidence in Cain, whom he believes has made great strides over the past year in terms of being more decisive and making better reads.

"The biggest thing I saw was that he was a lot more self-confident," Whittingham said. "He's had a great attitude since last season. He has displayed his character by putting the team before himself. It's a credit to him."

WYNN UPDATE: After the game, Wynn noted that he's still "day-to-day" with the sprained thumb on his throwing hand.

"It's getting better, but we'll see," Wynn said while noting that he knew on Friday that Cain would be the starter against UNLV.

STRAIGHT TALK: Whittingham wasn't very happy that the Utes had a punt blocked for the second consecutive week. It's the top priority to be fixed.

"Right now, that's our weakest link," he said before adding emphasis to the situation. "That's unacceptable."

DEFENDING THE RUN: Utah's defense held Pitt running back Dion Lewis to a career-low 75 yards last week and limited UNLV's C.J. Cox to only 31 yards on 16 carries.

The key?

"About eight 300-pound gorillas inside who are very good run-stoppers," Whittingham said of Utah's defensive line.

The contributors up front include starters Junior Tui'one, Sealver Siliga and Dave Kruger, Christian Cox, as well as reserves Star Lotulelei, Neli A'asa, Late Hemuli, Derrick Shelby and James Aiona.

They were instrumental in two goal-line stances and stopping another UNLV drive that ended inside the 10-yard line.

THE NEXT WEDDLE: True freshman Brian Blechen, the starter at strong safety and reigning MWC Defensive Player of the Week, had another strong outing with seven tackles and two pass breakups.

"The guy just keeps showing up," Whittingham said. "He can really lay the wood. He's a physical guy."

Blechen's approach reminds Whittingham of former Utah star Eric Weddle of the NFL's San Diego Chargers.

"Brian handles himself the same way Eric did as a freshman — very confident, very poised," Whittingham said. "And he's a mean kid. He'll come hit you."

AILING UTES: Starting center Zane Taylor injured his knee late in the game when a UNLV player rolled on it.

"That was a shame there," Whittingham said before noting that "everything appears to be OK" and there didn't seem to be any significant damage initially. Taylor, however, will require additional examinations to make sure that is the case.

Punter Sean Sellwood, who was hurt when he had a kick blocked in the third quarter, is "day-to-day" with an ankle injury.

EXTRA POINTS: Linebacker Chaz Walker led the Utes in tackles for the second consecutive game, with 16 stops. Another linebacker, Matt Martinez, was second with 12. ... Cornerback Lamar Chapman was credited with 1.5 sacks and a pass breakup. ... Jereme Brooks led the receivers with four catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. ... Smithson netted 128 yards on five punt returns. ... Utah's offensive line has yet to give up a sack this season. ... The Utes have forced fumbles in both games this season.

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com