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Patrick Kinahan: Quarterback blunder with Brewer could cost Utah big time

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising (7) runs the ball during the second half of an NCAA college football game against San Diego State Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Carson, Calif.

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising (7) runs the ball during the second half of an NCAA college football game against San Diego State Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (Ashley Landis, AP Photo)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY β€” Even the experts sometimes make mistakes, which in this particular case could end up being extremely costly.

The Utah football coaches picked the wrong quarterback to start the season. There's no other way to say it.

Yet, halfway through the season, the Utes are heavy favorites to win the Pac-12 South division. Imagine where they'd be if Cam Rising had begun the season as the starting quarterback.

It's not a stretch to suggest Utah might be ranked in the top 10, still in strong contention to earn a berth in the four-team national playoff. Not that a good chance to make the Rose Bowl for the first time in program history is a bad consolation prize, but at 4-2 the Utes have almost no shot to play for a national championship.

Too bad, too, because this team very well could be the best in the Pac-12. Tapping Rising earlier could have made the difference between Utah sitting at 5-1 or β€” skip over this part, BYU fans β€” 6-0.

After a fierce battle in training camp, the staff chose Charlie Brewer as the starting quarterback. It seemed logical enough based on Brewer's four seasons of experience at Baylor, for whom he passed for more than 9,000 yards and 65 touchdowns.

For his part, Rising only played part of the first quarter in the season opener in November against USC before suffering a serious shoulder injury that would require several months of rehabilitation. Before his brief appearance last year, Rising did not play as a freshman at Texas and then had to redshirt in 2019 after transferring to Utah.

Talk about a colossal error in judgment. Not that it is the first time ever.

Among the many examples is BYU offering Zadock Dinklemann, the nephew of then-offensive coordinator Ty Detmer, over future NFL first-round draft choice Zach Wilson. In 2003, during his first season at Utah, Urban Meyer picked Brett Elliott over Alex Smith, who took over the third game of the season and went 21-1 as the starter before becoming the No. 1 selection in the NFL draft in 2005.

With Brewer at quarterback, Utah lost to hated rival BYU for the first time since 2009. After the offense looked putrid early in the next game against San Diego State, coach Kyle Whittingham finally decided to go with Rising in the second half.

Rising engineered three touchdown drives in a great comeback before Utah lost in double overtime. Facing the obvious demotion, Brewer quit the team two days later.

Since then, Utah has not lost a game and is the only Pac-12 team without a blemish in conference play. Facing then-18th-ranked Arizona State with first place on the line in the South division Saturday, Rising led the Utes back from a 14-point deficit at halftime to win 35-21.

"Got a lot of faith in Cam Rising," Whittingham said after the game. "He's a great leader for us and the players believe in him."

Amen.

While the sophomore from Ventura, California, may not have overwhelming statistics, Rising brings a much-needed swagger to Utah's offense. He also has an uncanny knack for making a big play out of nothing with his ability to escape pressure.

For sure, proven by the fact his teammates voted him a captain, Rising is an emotional leader on a team that has experienced the gamut of emotions this season. As well documented, the Utah program has had to deal with the deaths of running back Ty Jordan last December and defensive back Aaron Lowe last month.

Usually brief and understated during his media interview sessions, Rising has the complete confidence of his teammates built up during his three years in the program. He never flinched even as Utah brought in three quarterback transfers the last two years.

"Cam has some swagger to him," said receiver Britain Covey. "I don't think you'll ever catch Cam not smiling. I don't know if you remember his season-ending last year, literally he was on the sidelines smiling two seconds after. That's just who he is.

"He's always been that guy through the highs and lows, he's there to encourage you. You'll go to war for someone like that. You'll run through a brick wall for someone who is constantly there for you."

Come the afternoon of Jan. 1, his teammates may run with him out of the tunnel onto the field in Pasadena, California.

More from Patrick Kinahan:


About the Author: Patrick Kinahan

Patrick Kinahan is a radio host for 97.5/1280 The Zone and the Zone Sports Network. He, along with David James, are on the air Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. To read more of his articles, visit Patrick's KSL.com author page.

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