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Utah Utes football: John White IV looking forward to facing BYU

Utah's John White celebrates after scoring the third touchdown in the first half of the Utah Utes vs. Northern Colorado Bears game at the University of Utah on Thursday, August 30, 2012.
Utah's John White celebrates after scoring the third touchdown in the first half of the Utah Utes vs. Northern Colorado Bears game at the University of Utah on Thursday, August 30, 2012.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The way John White sees it, there's no better way to bounce back from a heartbreaking loss than to make up for it with a win over your top rival.

As such, the Utah running back is excited to play in Saturday's game against BYU at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

"I think that would be a great way to get people on track," said White, who compares the situation to last season when the Utes responded from a tough loss at USC with a 54-10 victory over BYU in Provo the next week.

"We came back that next game and we did exceptionally well," White said. "I feel like the same thing is going to happen this year."

Although he doesn't think it's necessarily true and that others are capable of getting it done, it may depend on how many yards White gains on the ground.

"I don't really shoot for any numbers," White said. "I just go out there and play."

Over the past two seasons, however, the Utes are 9-0 when White rushes for 100 yards and 0-6 when he doesn't. The senior had 96 in last week's 27-20 overtime loss at Utah State.

"I think it's critical every week and last week we fell short of that. He was close but didn't get that century mark," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "If you look at past history. It's something that correlates to our success. So it would make sense to try to get him that."

Offensive coordinator Brian Johnson agreed.

"You've got to be able to run the football effectively and we've got to be much better controlling the line of scrimmage and making the necessary cuts," Johnson said. "So that's been a point of emphasis this week."

White ran for 174 yards against BYU last season and enters this game feeling good. He noted that rumors about an ankle injury are not true.

"I'm 100 percent right now. I'm ready to go," White said. "I'm ready to go out there and pound BYU and these Cougars and get these guys out of town. So, I mean, it's all about going out there and playing hard."

RIVALRY ROLE: When it comes to the Rivalry Game, Whitingham is one of those guys with a couple of vantage points. He played for BYU from 1978-81 and served as a graduate assistant for the Cougars from 1985-86. Whittingham has been on the red sideline since 1994, serving as head coach of the Utes since the 2005 meeting.

When asked if it's better to play or coach in the big game, Whittingham didn't hesitate.

"Coaching is the next best thing to playing. Playing is the best thing," he said. "So I don't think that's really any contest for me. I love coaching but it's not the same, just not quite the same."

YOU NEVER KNOW: Johnson can relate to what retired quarterback Jordan Wynn is going through as far as battling injuries throughout his college playing days. Unlike Wynn, though, Johnson was able to cap his career with the Utes in storybook fashion — as the Most Outstanding Player in the Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.

"It's a blessing to play this game. You absolutely never know when your last play will be," Johnson said. "So you've got to play every play like it's your last and cherish every moment because these opportunities are very, very special and they can be very limited."

EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham said that quarterbacks Jon Hays and Travis Wilson are each getting a fair shot at earning the starting job against BYU. A final decision, he added, won't be made until after extensive film study of Thursday's practice. No public announcement will be made prior to the game . . . Sophomore Tyron Morris-Edwards is emerging as the frontrunner at free safety if starter Eric Rowe (hamstring) is unable to play Saturday . . . Utah's coaching is the second-youngest in the nation with an average age of 37 years. Toledo is first at 34.7 years.

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