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November 5, 2012Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham reached an important milestone Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
As his team decisively defeated conference foe Washington State 49-6, Whittingham also beat a long-time friend in Washington State coach Mike Leach in his 100th game as Utah's head coach. Whittingham's very first win has an asterisk by it, as Utah won the 2005 Fiesta Bowl versus Pitt, 35-7 with both Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham listed as co-head coach for that game.
Whittingham won the first two games of his career in the fall of 2005 in Salt Lake City with wins over Arizona (27-24) and Utah State (31-7), but lost a heart-breaker to TCU 23-20 in a controversial game in Fort Worth, marking the first loss of his head coaching career.
Utah would go on to a 7-5, (4-4 in conference) season, capping it off with a satisfying 38-10 Emerald Bowl victory. His first season would represent his worst win-loss record of his career.
Since his appointment to head coach, Whittingham has averaged over nine wins per season, peaking in 2008-2009 with an un-defeated, 12-0 regular season record. The impressive feat landed Whittingham a trip to the BCS Sugar Bowl and a date with storied SEC opponent, Alabama.
The Utes would cruise to a 31-17 victory over the Crimson Tide, and a 13-0 season, garnering a No. 2 ranking in the AP poll.
Whittingham is 7-1 in bowl games, and played a pivotal role in the NCAA's second-longest bowl win streak, which spanned nine years from the 1999-2009 seasons. Beloved former Ute coach Ron McBridepresided over Utah's first three bowl wins, Urban Meyer coached Utah to two bowl wins and Whittingham carried the torch as head coach to five Utah teams who won five consecutive bowls from 2005-2009. His co-head coach title in the 2004-2005 Fiesta Bowl equates to a sixth bowl victory to his credit.
Coming into his eight season, Whittingham had amassed a 66-25 record, winning 72 percent of his games. To date, Whittingham's record stands at 70 wins and 30 losses, making for simple math to find a 70 percent victory rate.
Unaware of the impending milestone until last week's Monday press conference, Whittingham was made aware of the fact by media, who asked for his thoughts on the matter.
Whittingham's response was casual, if not politely dismissive of the question, which was repeated on numerous occasions throughout the week.
"Not a thing. Nope, it doesn't mean a thing. I can tell you that I didn't even know about it until Monday's press conference," he responded to one such inquiry after Tuesday's practice. "But the number, doesn't mean a thing. I can tell you I can't believe it's been that long, but that's about it."
Rather than his own legacy, Whittingham was intently focused on the task at hand; Washington State. The first in a string of games of must-win games, Whittingham and the Utes have tried to focus on each game as if it were the last of the season.
In short, Whittingham had no use for mile-markers, records, accolades or personal recognition.
"It took about 20 years off my life, these hundred, so I can't answer that," said the notoriously dry-humored Whittingham playfully. "We're really just trying to focus on one week at a time ... but thanks for bringing that up!"