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Brad Rock: Utes have their star in Devontae Booker, but QB situation still a worry

SHARE Brad Rock: Utes have their star in Devontae Booker, but QB situation still a worry

For those who just have to know what’s ahead, mapping every move, don’t look to the Utes for answers.

They have their meal ticket: running back Devontae Booker.

They just don’t have a for-sure quarterback.

But plenty of drama.

Shades of 2011.

Their special teams continue to be special. Andy Phillips was cash in the bank, as usual, making three field goals. The defense is just about what Kyle Whittingham wants — if he ignores that 72-yard touchdown it gave up in the early fourth quarter.

OK, don’t ignore it.

Booker, who rushed for 226 yards, is having a prodigious season. Meanwhile, the Utes' quarterback(s) and No. 1 receiver are as unpredictable as the stock market and Madonna combined.

Thursday night at Reser Stadium, the Utes had a winning conference record for the first time, beating Oregon State, 29-23 in double-overtime. Along the way, they showed they aren’t likely to make things easy on themselves. Starting QB Kendal Thompson can give defenses fits.

His own coaches?

That, too.

He’s just as likely to lose yardage or lose the ball on the gallop as he is to run to the end zone. Travis Wilson lost his starting position early in the game against UCLA, two weeks ago. On the other hand, Thompson passed for only 17 yards and ran for only 20 in the first half Thursday night.

Wilson started and finished the second half.

This is where we came in, right?

Booker carried for 44 yards in the first half but matched that on a single run in the early second half. Phillips made three field goals in the first 35 minutes, to put the Utes ahead 9-6 in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, there’s the mysterious case of Dres Anderson, Utah’s top receiver last year. But sometimes he plays like he’s being audited.

So don’t plan on the Utes resolving anything too early.

There are too many flaws for the Utes to be great, too much talent to dismiss.

If they had to pick a start, it could hardly have been sweeter than an interception on OSU’s first play. A few plays later, Thompson found Anderson for a scoring pass in the end zone, but it was ruled incomplete. Replays showed Anderson caught the ball, got his foot down and baked cookies.

Wasn’t enough.

It was ruled he didn’t have possession.

The bobble seemed minor, but a few minutes later Anderson got another chance to score a touchdown on a pass from Thompson, but bobbled it again. That time he was interfered with on the play, but it was probably catchable.

Anderson also dropped two passes late in the game against Washington State that would have given Utah the lead.

Is it starting to get in his head? It looked like it early. Soon after came more circumstantial evidence: a Thompson pass went off Anderson’s chest, leading to an interception and OSU’s first score.

The Beavers got a field goal at the end of the half to tie the score.

But Phillips was dead-on as usual. Meanwhile, Wilson started the second half and got the Utes a field goal on their first possession for a 9-6 lead. Not that he had much to do with it. Booker’s 42-yard run had everything to do with it. So did his 53-yard run in the fourth quarter, which he followed up with the go-ahead touchdown with 4:06 left.

Anderson, meanwhile, settled down in the second half, making key first-down catches in the third and fourth quarters, looking like his old self.

So the most certain thing about the Utes is that they will be down to the wire. But another likelihood? The QB situation will remain in flux. Neither QB registered a touchdown. Wilson may have earned his starting spot — but by how much?

If the Utes do get to a bowl game, it will likely be similar to their 2011 team that won the Sun Bowl with Jon Hays under center and John White packing the ball.

Email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: @therockmonster; Blog: Rockmonster Unplugged