Somewhere, somehow, you have to believe the late Fred Whittingham is smiling with pride.

His oldest son, Kyle, is being celebrated with his University of Utah football team for remarkable back-to-back Pac-12 titles and an immediate return to the Rose Bowl after taking storied USC to the woodshed at Allegiant Stadium on Friday night.

Fred would have loved not only the results but the style points. It was done his way.

You see, Fred’s nickname when he played in the NFL was “Mad Dog Whittingham,” a term of endearment that reflected his on-field demeanor and temper. He took no quarter.  

Fred Whittingham passed away 19 years ago following back surgery.

You got the feeling during the Pac-12 championship that Kyle Whittingham and his team felt a little disrespected and the ghost of Mad Dog Whittingham was in their midst.

Kyle’s team beat up the Trojans in the trenches. The Utes were physical and intense. They kept coming at the Hollywood boys as if they were fresh off the beach and threw them into a woodchipper.

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At the end, USC’s offensive line was so shellshocked by the onslaught of Utah’s pass rush, one feared for the safety of USC superstar and Heisman Trophy candidate Caleb Williams. He was chased, hounded, blindsided and knocked on his butt. 

His early hamstring pull made him a mannequin at the mercy of Utes Gabe Reid and Mohamoud Diabate. In the end, he limped off the field, his hand bleeding.

Utah’s win likely opened the door for Ohio State to be in playoffs.

Fred would have loved how USC’s 17-3 first-quarter lead brought TV talking heads to center the broadcast on Williams as the Heisman Trophy favorite. But then his son’s squad outscored USC 44-7, something akin to a Kentucky basketball run or Madden video game.

Fred would have savored the contrast in how his son’s team tackled as opposed to the weak 30 missed tackles USC made, essentially tripling the 50-plus yard chunk plays Utah has had all season.

Fred Whittingham was a man’s man, a tough, intimidating, almost scary linebacker for the Rams, Saints, Cowboys and Eagles. He was a Golden Gloves boxer, who won a title in — you got it — Las Vegas.

As an NFL and college football coach Fred inspired a brand and attitude from his players. The theme was intense warfare where you’d better get on the landing craft or run home to your mama.

This is what Fred would have seen and enjoyed Friday night in this highly anticipated game between Kyle’s Utes and the No. 4 ranked USC team — that his son’s team kept true to that philosophy.

Utah wrecked USC. Sent them home to their mamas.

After the first 15 minutes, it wasn’t even close.

When USC failed to capitalize on a Jaylen Dixon fumble in the second quarter and made a weak effort to convert on fourth and long, the Utes scored on the ensuing possession and never looked back.  

They say football is a game of momentum. Those minutes were a Ute wave that quickly turned into a tsunami.

This Utah win had Whittingham written all over it. Ink from Fred and paper from Kyle.

It was hard-hat and lunchbox workmen versus the fedora and scarf thespians.

It was USC’s NIL money and transfer portal trendsetters against a hungry, motivated Ute horde.

Mad Dog Fred would have loved how Ute defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley kept ordering pressure, putting knees on necks until time ran out.

Fred would have loved how Rising got right back up looking for his helmet after a teeth-rattling second-half hit popped his lid off like a cork off a bottle. He’d have loved the grit, the swagger. 

Fred would have enjoyed the confetti, the ambiance, the celebration by Ute fans enjoying a moment his son had a part in creating for them.

To win back-to-back Pac-12 titles is no easy task. Ask USC, who hasn’t been there in nearly half a decade. Ask Oregon, who shipped in Bo Nix and injected Nike money into recruiting for the purpose of titlehood.

Utah simply walked up to Lincoln Riley and his USC team bound for the Big Ten and poked all of them in the eyes then said, “This is three in a row, friends.”

You could tell Fred that the Utes can lay claim to the Rose Bowl. Again. It’s becoming an annual vacation spot. Plans are banked, hotels and flights booked with delight.

Yes, this was a moment in time that Fred Whittingham has to be a part of in some cosmic way from wherever his Mad Dog perch is.

This Utah team played Whittingham ball on Friday night.

And like father and son, the DNA imprint is tattooed on the souls of the USC nation this weekend as the Trojans most likely will lose their key to the CFB playoff portal.

Fred Whittingham, father of University of Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham, left, celebrates after BYU’s Holiday Bowl victory over SMU at the 1980 Holiday Bowl. | Stuart Johnson, Deseret News