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Utes getting some national attention on the football field

Utah Utes defensive end Hunter Dimick (49) sacks Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert (10) at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016.
Utah Utes defensive end Hunter Dimick (49) sacks Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert (10) at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016.
Laura Seitz,

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah can still finish on top in a couple of things. The 22nd-ranked Utes enter Saturday’s regular-season finale at Colorado with a couple of NCAA statistical leaders.

Sophomore punter Mitch Wishnowsky, who was named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award earlier in the week, currently tops the nation in punt average (48.6 yards), punts of 50 yards and greater (26) and punts inside the 20 (57.41 percent). His efforts have the Utes leading the nation in net punting (45.20 yards).

Senior defensive Hunter Dimick, meanwhile, is the national leader in sacks with 14. Along the way, he’s become the program’s career record holder (29).

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged that the individual achievements are things to appreciate.

“That’s great. It’s a great accolade for those guys. … You want your players to achieve,” he said.

Wishnowsky is on the cusp of becoming Utah’s third consecutive Ray Guy Award honoree — following back-to-back wins by fellow Australian Tom Hackett. Wishnowsky and Whittingham are scheduled to attend the annual Home Depot College Football Awards Show Dec. 8 in Atlanta.

“I set out pretty much just to help the void that Tom left,” Wishnowsky said. “It wasn’t going to be easy.”

Wishnowsky noted that even an average punting year might have had folks saying: “We need Tom back.” He noted being pleased for getting the work done that the team needed.

Leading the national in several punting categories isn’t something Wishnowsky takes lightly.

“That’s a goal every punter is trying to do,” he said. “I’m definitely not playing that down. I’m very happy with how the season went.”

Dimick has similar thoughts about his success with sacks.

“Finishing on top like that would definitely be something I would be proud of,” he said.

Both players, however, have something bigger on their minds this weekend.

“I’m more worried about Colorado,” said Dimick, who added that the Utes have a very good sense of team. “That’s how I’ve always been. That’s what the coaches have always taught.”

HOLIDAY PLANS: Whittingham said the Utes will practice early Thursday and get done with everything by noon in order to celebrate Thanskgiving.

“We’ve got everybody accounted for. Everyone’s going to have a place to go,” Whittingham said.

The team will gather again Friday to finalize preparations for the trip to Colorado.

AN EXPLANATION: Senior running Joe Williams, who became just the 13th player in team history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, was a bit grumpy after Saturday’s 30-28 loss to Oregon. In the postgame press conference, he repeatedly answered “Colorado” to questions. He then noted that "(expletive) happens" and left after announcing he was done speaking with the media for the night.

On Tuesday, Williams explained that he was just not able to process things that quick and was real passionate by how the game ended — along with it being “Senior Day” and other things.

“That’s all it was — just emotional,” he said.

Williams added that’s it something that just has to be fought through.


Twitter: @DirkFacer