This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Utah's most successful football season in the school's Pac-12 era will end Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl vs. Colorado State, with one more chance for the Utes to make a favorable impression and secure a Top 25 ranking in the final polls.
"It's the last thing that people are going to remember," said junior quarterback Travis Wilson.
He's speaking of the 2014 Utes overall, but those words may apply to Wilson himself. After everything he has gone through this season, he's promised only one more turn as a starting quarterback. And then who knows how his college football future will play itself out.
QB issues have driven the story lines in all three of Utah's FBS programs this season, so why should anything be different in December and beyond? BYU's Christian Stewart is a senior, so he knows the Miami Beach Bowl is his last shot. Utah State redshirt freshman Kent Myers could end up almost anywhere on the Aggies' depth chart next spring, following the New Mexico Bowl. As for Wilson, the Las Vegas Bowl will mark his 27th and conceivably final start for the Utes, with some variables in play.
Graduating from the school in 2015 will give him options. Wilson is not saying he's among the "one or two or maybe even three" quarterbacks who could transfer, by coach Kyle Whittingham's count. If he stays for his senior year, Wilson would go into spring drills as Utah's No. 1 quarterback.
But how long he would maintain that status is a big question.
What's clear is that Wilson deserves some credit for playing through two demotions this year, beating USC with a last-minute touchdown and overcoming Colorado in the regular-season finale with a 311-yard passing performance.
Wilson returned to the lineup for good when Kendal Thompson injured his knee in the first quarter against Oregon on Nov. 8, after Wilson twice lost his starting job. "I didn't really let that affect me. … I tried to prove myself every time I'd go back in," he said.
He sort of succeeded, following each benching. Wilson helped the Utes win double-overtime games at Oregon State and Stanford after the offense struggled in regulation, in addition to keeping Utah close against Oregon for three-plus quarters. Everybody involved with Utah's offense regressed in the loss to Arizona, but Wilson responded well against Colorado
"It was good to see him playing with confidence," Whittingham said.
"I'm just happy he kept a level head, [not] get too down on himself," said Ute receiver Kenneth Scott. "The thing I try to preach to Travis is stay confident. … Any quarterback that's on a leash, or whatever, is not that confident. If he gets his spot taken, his confidence goes down."
The Utes went 7-3 this season in the games Wilson started, including a 4-3 mark in Pac-12 play. He's 14-12 in three years as a starter, boosted by a 6-0 record in nonconference games with wins over Utah State and BYU in 2013.
Mix in the intracranial artery condition that threatened to end his career, and Wilson has experienced a Ute tenure unlike any quarterback's. Now comes the Las Vegas Bowl, during which Wilson is almost certain to move into the top five of Utah's all-time passing-yards list.
So where will his career go from here?
Thompson's brief, second stint as Utah's No. 1 quarterback offered some clues about the future. In that first quarter vs. Oregon, the offense "looked about the way it's supposed to look," offensive coordinator Dave Christensen said recently, responding to a question about his scheme.
The same could be said of Wilson's showing at Colorado, an opponent that now accounts for two of his eight Pac-12 wins. Coming off the loss to Arizona, Christensen reminded Wilson of his clutch performance against USC, telling him, "I know it's in there, and we expect you to play that way."
Wilson delivered a 38-34 victory in Boulder, and now he gets another turn against another Colorado school in his first bowl appearance.
This is Wilson's opportunity to make a lasting impression in 2014. Whether it's his last start for the Utes is up to him to some degree, anyway.
Travis Wilson's career statistics
Year Comp. Att. Pct. Int. TDs Yds.
2012 128 204 .627 6 7 1,311
2013 133 237 .561 16 16 1,827
2014 173 287 .603 4 17 2,012
Most wins, Utah starting QBs
Player Years Record
Brian Johnson 2005-08 26-7
Alex Smith 2003-04 21-1
Mike McCoy 1993-94 18-9
Mike Fouts 1995-96 15-6
Travis Wilson 2012-14 14-12
Utah's career passing-yards list
Player, years Yards
Scott Mitchell, 1987-89 8,981
Brian Johnson, 2004-08 7,853
Mike McCoy, 1992-94 7,404
Larry Egger, 1985-86 5,749
Alex Smith, 2002-04 5,203
Travis Wilson, 2012-14 5,150
Utah's career TD passes list
Player, years TDs
Scott Mitchell, 1987-89 69
Brian Johnson, 2004-08 57
Mike McCoy, 1992-94 49
Alex Smith, 2002-04 47
Travis Wilson, 2012-14 40