Kendal Thompson

QB Donovan Isom takes to Twitter to announce transfer from Utah

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Utah’s quarterback meeting room will be one lighter when it enters summer camp than when it exited spring practice.

On Twitter Saturday evening, Donovan Isom tweeted out a photo of him wearing a Southeastern Louisiana uniform and helmet.  The quarterback confirmed to the Salt Lake Tribune that he decided to transfer from Utah to be closer to his family in Louisiana.

Last month, his family’s home was destroyed by fire, which triggered his decision to leave the Utes.

Another factor in the decision could very well have been the depth chart at his position.  Not counting Isom, the Utes’ roster is littered with five quarterbacks, including the incumbent Travis Wilson as well as well as former Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson.

Isom was a three-star member of Utah’s 2014 recruiting class who took a redshirt as a true freshman.  He took part in the spring game, rushing for 42 yards on 11 carries and completing seven passes for 15 yards.

Because Southeastern Louisiana is an FCS school, Isom will be eligible to play in 2015.  Including this year, he’ll have four years of eligibility remaining.

(Photo credit: Utah athletics)

Travis Wilson starting again at Utah, but Whittingham still evaluating options

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Utah is off to a solid start this season thanks in large part to the play of the defense and the production of the running game. Those two areas have helped to overcome some quarterback indecision for the Utes. After just one week, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has decided to hand the offense back to Travis Wilson under center. Kendal Thompson will return to the back-up position when No. 19 Utah hosts No. 20 USC this weekend.

“We think Travis’ performance is a little bit better so far this season than Kendal overall,” Whittingham said this week. “When you look at the numbers, it’s very close. It’s no different than when we came out of fall camp, with it being a tight race. Kendal has run the ball a little bit better than Travis has so far this season, Travis has thrown the ball a little bit better than Kendal. It’s very tight.”

Whittingham may be giving the starting job back to Wilson, but the head coach of the Utes also suggested Thompson will still see some playing time. This is far from a concrete answer for the quarterback solution at Utah.

“There is a very strong possibility that you’ll see Kendal in the game this week as well,” Whittingham said. “It’s still not what I term a two-quarterback system. People say ‘you’re playing two quarterbacks so it’s a two quarterback system’ – no it’s not, as far as my definition where both guys know they are going to play X amount of time or X amount of plays, whatever the case may be. We’re waiting for some separation to occur. Ideally we’d like some separation to occur, and one guy to take charge and settle in and be the guy, but that hasn’t happened yet, so they’re both going to get opportunities until that does happen.”

Utah’s passing offense ranks 11th in the Pac-12, just ahead of Washington. The Utes quarterbacks have combined for 1,151 passing yards in six games, an average of 191.8 yards per game. Combined, Wilson and Thompson have nine touchdown passes and two interceptions that have come through inconsistent play. Fortunately for Utah, the running game has excelled so far this season and the defense has kept games within reach.

Utah sacks No. 8 UCLA, capping historic day of Top 10 upsets

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Week 6 was not a safe time for college football teams to wear a single-digit number in front of their name. After unranked Arizona started the weekend by upending No. 2 Oregon Thursday night in Eugene, and No. 12 Mississippi State started Saturday but dusting No. 12 Texas A&M, and No. 11 Ole Miss shocked No. 3 Alabama and No. 25 TCU stunned No. 4 Oklahoma within minutes of each other, you had to know No. 8 UCLA was in trouble against unranked and dangerous Utah Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.

It was in more than just trouble, as the Utes dumped the Bruins, 30-28.

As a sign that the upset was just meant to be for Utah, the Pac-12 refs nearly Pac-12 ref’d their way to handing UCLA the win. As UCLA lined up for a potentially game-winning field goal with four seconds to play, Ka’imi Fairbairn‘s 55-yard field goal sailed far wide right, but a generous running into the kicker call gave Fairbairn another try from 50. Ball didn’t lie, and Fairbairn missed.

That, however, was not where this game was lost for UCLA. That came along the offensive line, which allowed quarterback and former Heisman Trophy front-runner Brett Hundley to be sacked a staggering 10 times, including three straight plays in one sequence. Despite that, Hundley still completed 16-of-21 passes for 269 yards with two touchdowns, but threw what proved to be a costly pick six to Tevin Carter that opened the scoring with 5:51 to play in the first quarter.

The Bruins actually succeeded at run blocking, paving the way for Paul Perkins and Jordon James to combine for 149 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.

After struggling through one quarter with Travis Wilson (2-of-5 passing, five yards) at quarterback, Kyle Whittingham inserted Kendal Thompson into the game and immediately reaped the benefits. Thompson’s mobility kept UCLA’s defense off-balance. He completed 10-of-13 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown and rushed 19 times for 83 yards.

Devontae Booker led the way for the Utes with 33 carries 156 yards and a touchdown and three receptions for 15 yards.

Utah led the game 17-7 at halftime and could have potentially put the game away while leading 24-14 early in the fourth, but Kaelin Clay dropped a 2nd-and-10 pass that would have put the ball inside UCLA territory. The Utes punted, and two plays later Hundley hit Eldridge Massington for a 93-yard touchdown pass, and suddenly Utah was in scramble mode.

Andy Phillips extended the lead to 27-21 on a 45-yard boot with 6:21 to go, but UCLA immediately grabbed the lead with another long scoring strike from Hundley to Massington with 4:50 to go.

Utah took the ball on the ensuing possession and marched 63 yards in 10 plays, setting Phillips up for a 29-yard game-winner with 34 seconds to go.

Utah’s win and UCLA’s loss creates a three-team logjam in the Pac-12 South, where USC joins these two clubs in a tie for second behind unbeaten Arizona.

Utah, which should be ranked on Sunday, plays next at Oregon State on Oct. 16, while UCLA must turn around to face fellow upset victim Oregon on Saturday.

 

Utah pushing No. 8 UCLA around, leads 17-7 at the half

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The joy of seeing No. 16 USC lose to Arizona State on a Hail Mary may be short-lived for UCLA, as the No. 8 Bruins trail Utah 17-7 at the half.

Utah built a 14-0 lead on the strength of a 27-yard pick six by Tevin Carter and a 42-yard touchdown catch by Dres Anderson in between two Bruin defenders.

Travis Wilson started the game for Utah but was pulled after the first quarter as he completed 2-of-5 passes for five yards in the opening frame. Transfer Kendal Thompson replaced him and lit a fuse under the Utes’ attack, hitting all seven of his throws for 68 yards and the score to Anderson. He’s also rushed eight times for 31 yards, while Devontae Booker has toted the rock 15 times for 67 yards.

Paul Perkins responded to the Anderson circus catch with a four-yard touchdown run with 10:28 to play in the half. He’s been a bright spot for the Bruins, producing 87 yards on 15 carries.

UCLA has had major problems protecting Brett Hundley, sacked five times already by Utah’s swarming defense.

He’s completed 8-of-11 passes for 82 yards with the interception. Factor in interception yardage, and the Bruins are getting five yards per pass to go with 2.9 yards per rush.

UCLA gets the ball to open the second half.

Utes, Cyclones, UConn Huskies name starting QBs

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With the start of a new season less than two weeks away (fist pump), head coaches at various programs across the country are getting down to the business of naming a starter at the most important position on the field.

Kentucky and Purdue pulled the trigger on their starting quarterbacks Monday. They, though, weren’t the only ones.

In one of the more high-profile competitions left unsettled, Utah confirmed that the incumbent Travis Wilson had, to the surprise of some, fended off the challenge of Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson.

After starting the first three-quarters of the 2013 season, a concussion — technically, an intracranial artery injury — sidelined Wilson for the last three games and led to questions as to whether he would ever play the game again. Wilson, though, was cleared to participate in spring practice, albeit in non-contact mode, and was ultimately cleared medically for full contact.

His 16 interceptions last season were the second-most at the FBS level, leading some to believe Thompson would emerge from the summer camp fray as the starter.  In July, Wilson was cited for underage consumption of alcohol.

Neither of those, though, caused Wilson to be unseated.

“It was close,” Kyle Whittingham said of the competition. “It was just about a dead heat.”

The head coach also confirmed that Thompson will play, although he stressed that the Utes will not be a two-QB team; instead, they will be one that will look for opportunities to insert Thompson into the game and utilize a skillset that’s about 180 degrees from what Wilson brings to the table.

“It’s when we get the opportunity to put Kendal in and give him some work,” Whittingham explained. “He’s earned that right and you will see him play as well.”

Along with Utah, Iowa State and UConn both named starters at the position as well.

On the former front, ISU head coach Paul Rhoads confirmed that Sam Richardson will be his starting quarterback for the season opener against North Dakota State. Richardson was the starter for the first eight games of the 2013 season before he was benched — partly because of injury, partly because of ineffective play — in favor of Grant Rohach.

Those two were the main combatants this time around as well, with the coach citing leadership and Richardson’s quick acclimation to new coordinator Mark Mangino‘s offense as the data points that tipped the scales in the “incumbent’s” favor.

“Sam has displayed great leadership and that certainly includes poise in the pocket where he has been very much in control of our offense and of himself,” Rhoads said in a statement. “His understanding of the scheme and his decision-making has really grown in the last two weeks, and maybe as much as anything, he is throwing a great ball, an accurate ball, a tight ball and a catchable ball.”

On the UConn front, Bob Diaco announced that sophomore Casey Cochran had beaten out senior Chandler Whitmer for the Huskies starting job. The head coach said the difference between the two was “negligible,” but that the younger player’s leadership, oddly enough, was better than the veteran’s.

Whitmer started the first four games last season before being benched — in favor of true freshman Tim Boyle –after being the starter for every game in 2012, while Cochran started the last four games last year.

Boyle, who has been battling minor injuries throughout summer camp, is likely headed for a redshirt season.