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Who will start at quarterback for the Utes vs. Washington State? Mum’s the word

Cam Rising was impressive in relief duty vs. SDSU, but Utah coach Kyle Whittingham says he won’t reveal who will start at QB when the Utes open Pac-12 play vs. Washington State.

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising runs the ball during a game against San Diego State Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Carson, Calif.
Utah quarterback Cameron Rising runs the ball against San Diego State Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Carson, Calif. Rising came off the bench to lead a valiant comeback attempt, but ultimately the Utes fell to the Aztecs in triple overtime.
Ashley Landis, Associated Press

Two days after Utah lost 33-31 to San Diego State in triple overtime, coach Kyle Whittingham said he won’t be announcing who will start at quarterback this week.

The Utes trailed 24-10 last Saturday when starter Charlie Brewer was replaced by Cam Rising.

Rising led an impressive comeback as Utah scored a pair of touchdowns in the final 4:17 of regulation to tie the game and force OT.

The Utes (1-2) fell in the third overtime, prompting questions about who would start at QB moving forward.

Asked if he would be announcing the starter for Utah’s Pac-12 opener Saturday (12:30 p.m. MDT, Pac-12 Network) against Washington State, Whittingham said, “No we won’t do that. We have a solid idea of what we’re going to do but we won’t make any official announcement. You’ll see him trot out there Saturday.”

Rising completed 19 of 32 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns against the Aztecs.

Brewer was 14 of 26 for 103 yards and one interception.

Utah quarterback Charlie Brewer looks to hand off during a game against San Diego State Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Carson, Calif. Brewer was replaced in the second half by backup Cam Rising.
Ashley Landis, Associated Press

“Offensively, we just couldn’t get anything going until late in the game. Fortunately, we were able to find a spark late in the game and mount a comeback,” Whittingham said Monday. “Obviously, it fell short in that comeback attempt. But we saw some really good things out of Cam Rising when he came in. He provided a spark — not immediately but after a couple of series, he settled in and did some really good things and put up some really good numbers.”

When Rising entered the game late in the third quarter, he got after his teammates with a fiery speech in the huddle — and that approach worked.

Whittingham said Monday that having a vocal leader at quarterback is important.

“At that particular position, you’d like to have the guy be vocal, a guy that’s an alpha dog type of mentality,” he said. “Leading by example is great but it doesn’t seem to work as well at the quarterback spot as it does at other spots.”

Whittingham’s biggest concern overall is with the offense.

“We’ve got to continue working to find an identity on offense. That is our primary issue right now,” he said. “That’s the most important question we have in our program right now. We haven’t really been as physical running the football as we anticipated we were going to be. We’re not throwing the football for as much production as we need to. We’re not throwing badly but we’re not getting out of it what we need to to win games.”

The Utes ran for just 70 yards against San Diego State.

Whittingham acknowledged the struggles of the offensive line to open holes and provide pass protection.

“We’re better talent-wise than what we’re portraying on game day,” he said. “That’s got to translate. We’ve got to play to the level we’re capable of.”

Utah defensive tackle Viane Moala is lifted onto a stretcher during a game against San Diego State Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Carson, Calif. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham announced Monday that the injury is season-ending.
Ashley Landis, Associated Press

Season-ending injury

In other news, Whittingham announced Monday that defensive tackle Viane Moala suffered a season-ending injury against SDSU.

Moala was carted off the field and was transported to the hospital.

“It’s a blow for our defensive front,” Whittingham said. “He was the leader of that defensive tackle group … Fortunately, we have a very deep group of defensive tackles. We knew going into the season we had good depth there.”

Backing up Moala has been Devin Kaufusi. Tennessee Pututau and Junior Tafuna could see more snaps, Whittingham said, as well as Tevita Fotu.

“We’re toying with the idea of redshirting (Fotu),” the coach said. “We’ll see if he gets pressed into action. We have plenty of bodies. It’s just that when it’s your No. 1 tackle, no matter what your depth is, that’s never a good thing. We’ve had to respond. Next man up.”

Cornerback JaTravis Broughton suffered “an upper body” injury and Whittingham said Broughton’s status is uncertain.