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Utah hands keys of offense to QB Jake Bentley, but who will Utes play this weekend — Arizona State or Washington?

Coach Kyle Whittingham said Tuesday that while all his team’s attention is on the Sun Devils, Utah could play at Washington on Saturday

SHARE Utah hands keys of offense to QB Jake Bentley, but who will Utes play this weekend — Arizona State or Washington?

Utah Utes quarterback Jake Bentley passes during a game against USC at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. With starting QB Cam Rising injured during the game against the Trojans, Bentley will be under center for the Utes moving forward.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

In the wake of a season-ending shoulder injury to Cam Rising, Utah has a new starting quarterback.

But which opponent will senior Jake Bentley face this weekend? That remains to be seen.

The Utes are scheduled to visit Arizona State Sunday (kickoff time and broadcast information hasn’t been released) but coach Kyle Whittingham said Tuesday that while all his team’s attention is on the Sun Devils, Utah could end up playing at Washington on Saturday. 

“It looks like the possibility of a home game doesn’t exist for this week,” Whittingham said.

So the Utes, who fell 33-17 at home in their opener last Saturday against No. 19 USC, will go with Bentley taking snaps, regardless of the opponent. 

Bentley played most of the game against the Trojans after Rising suffered the injury early in the second quarter

“The biggest loss is Cam Rising. It looks like he’s done for the season,” Whittingham said Tuesday. “At least that’s what has been indicated to me, barring a miracle. He’s not going to be back with us.”

The good news for Utah is that Bentley, a grad transfer from South Carolina, has 33 starts under his belt. He started and played every game he appeared in for the Gamecocks. 

Bentley currently ranks seventh among active FBS quarterbacks in career starts and ninth in career wins (19), leading the Pac-12 in both categories. He ranks in the top five all-time at South Carolina in career completion percentage (.625), passing completions (626), passing touchdowns (55), passing yards (7,527) and total offense (7,670).

“So we move forward and Jake Bentley is our guy,” Whittingham said. 

The coach added it’s “crucial” to have a backup QB with Bentley’s wealth of experience. 

“We have that luxury to have two quarterbacks we feel really good about. Actually we have three, with Drew Lisk,” Whittingham said. “We don’t want to discount Drew and what he brings to the program. He’s a quality player as well.

“It didn’t take long for us to get to the No. 2 guy and that’s where we’re at. We have full confidence in Jake moving forward. It will be a big benefit to him taking all of the reps with the ones this week. He should be more comfortable and settled in this week.”

Against USC, Bentley completed 16 of 28 passes for 171 yards with one touchdown and a pair of interceptions. 

“He’s got 30-plus SEC starts under his belt. He performed very well in the SEC. It’s not like he’s an unknown commodity,” Whittingham said. “We’ll build the offense around Jake now and his skill set and away we go. We feel very fortunate that he’s with us and we expect him to get the job done for us.”

One of the challenges this week is that Utah may have to adjust to a new opponent. 

Arizona State has been ravaged by the coronavirus and it had to shut down practices on Nov. 11. The earliest the Sun Devils could return to practice is Thursday. Coach Herm Edwards was one of the people in the program to test positive for the virus. 

“All the focus right now is on ASU. Until we’re told differently, that’s where we’ll put the majority of attention because we’ve still got to pay attention to the other possibility,” Whittingham said. “That’s where our primary focus is. We hope to find out sooner rather than later.

“It would be ideal if we find out today. As the week moves on, it becomes more of a difficult situation without having some clarity. But we have no control over that. So we’re just waiting for a definitive answer. Until that point, the main focal point is Arizona State.”

Meanwhile, USC released a statement Tuesday morning explaining that one USC football player that traveled with the team to Salt Lake City has tested positive for the virus. That player is symptomatic, according to the school, and no other players have tested positive.