This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Kendal Thompson knows that going forward, some will think of him as Utah's running quarterback.
That's perfect, he said.
"Hopefully the opposing defenses will think I can't throw as well, and [we'll] try to hit some shots over the top of them."
It's not certain that Thompson will start next Thursday night against Oregon State. Kyle Whittingham said coaches have begun deliberations that may last until Wednesday.
But Thompson "made a strong case for himself, obviously," Whittingham said, by going 10-for-13 for 95 yards and one touchdown by air, 83 yards on 19 carries by ground after relieving Travis Wilson in the first quarter of Saturday's 30-28 upset of UCLA.
The offense had "sputtered" with Wilson at the helm against Michigan, Washington State and in the first three series against UCLA, said Whittingham.
Notably, Thompson sat at the podium usually occupied by Wilson at the Utes' Monday news conference, showing the same poise against the thronging media as he did in marching Utah 63 yards to set up Andy Phillips' game-winning field goal in Pasadena.
Thompson said he wasn't surprised to enter Saturday's game. He doesn't plan on changing his approach. He wasn't so geeked by his star turn that it cost him any sleep Saturday night.
It helps, Thompson said, that he was given an equal share of the No. 1 reps in fall camp after transferring in the offseason from Oklahoma, where he was once reported to be a contender for the starting job. "I feel like I've been running this offense for years now," he said. "This [Dave] Christensen system fits very well with my skill set."
UCLA coach Jim Mora said after the upset that Thompson took the Bruins by surprise they knew he might play, but they weren't expecting such a heavy dose of his agility and speed. "He doesn't throw the ball quite as well [as Wilson], but he runs the ball well," Mora said.
Indeed, junior running back Devontae Booker, who totaled 156 yards on 33 carries, said the threat of Thompson took pressure off of him when he entered the game. UCLA was putting eight men in the box and homing in on No. 23, he said, "but when he pulls it out and reads it and runs, then they're like, 'Man, we've got to stop doing this. We've got to worry about both of them, now.'"
His comments indicate that it's a point of pride for Thompson that he can throw, too. After all, two of his three incompletions were drops. The other was a tipped pass.
But Mora is not the first to say Wilson is the better passer: Utah's own coaches said the same during fall camp.
"I prefer to pass, actually," Thompson said. "But the way the game was going last week, it called for us to run the ball a couple of times, and I was able to do that."
Nearly half of Thompson's passing yards came on one play, when his roommate, senior wideout Dres Anderson, mimicked a crash test dummy while falling to the ground alongside two Bruin defenders for a 42-yard score. Throws like that illustrate that Thompson's able to throw downfield, Whittingham said.
"Dres made a spectacular catch, but Kendal put the ball in a place where it gave him an opportunity to make a play."
There were plays, Thompson said, when he should have gotten rid of the ball before taking a sack or been more patient before opting to scramble, but he believes he will improve as he continues to get acquainted with the offense.
Or, more accurately, if he continues to get more acquainted with the offense.
Whittingham said there's a "zero chance" that Utah will have a two-quarterback system, so by midweek, the keys to the car will be given to either Wilson, or Thompson.
Either way, Booker believes they are in safe hands.
"I trust in both of them. Whoever's in at quarterback, I know that they're going to do a great job for our team."
About Kendal Thompson
Vitals • 6-foot-2, 192 pounds
Family ties • Father, Charles, is a former Oklahoma quarterback. Cousin Antonio Perkins is a former Oklahoma cornerback, and cousin Jordan Thompson is a current West Virginia receiver. Is the son of Kori, who runs a home business and is the daughter of two teachers. Kori is half-Kiowa. Has two younger brothers, Casey and Cade, and Casey is a 2018 quarterback who might be further along for his age than Kendal was as a sophomore, Charles says.
Education • Was a Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Trophy winner at Southmoore High as the nation's premier black scholar-athlete. Had a 4.3 GPA in high school. Graduated in three years from Oklahoma with a bachelor's degree in communications. According to his U. bio, plans to pursue a postgraduate degree in educational psychology.
Attributes • Most often, when speaking about Thompson, his coaches talk about his ability to "extend plays." A couple were careful to make the distinction though that he isn't so much a rusher as somebody who can break free from the pocket and keep his eyes downfield to find a receiver. And while his father had exceptional breakaway speed, former Southmoore coach Chris Jensen says Kendal's strength is that he can quickly change directions.
Utah at Oregon St.
P Thursday, Oct. 16,8 p.m. MST TV: FS1
O To join the discussion on Utah football, go to sltrib.com/blogs