SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two years ago, quarterback Jordan Wynn was an 18-year-old high school senior, torn between two universities in different states far removed from his Southern California roots.
Then the energy of Utah's "blackout" game against TCU flipped a switch inside.
"I was already committed to Colorado," recalled Wynn, a former star at Oceanside (Calif.) High School. "Then I started having doubts about it. That game ... tipped the scales."
That game was a 13-10 come-from-behind win for then-No. 10 Utah in which the Utes scored a touchdown with less than a minute remaining to knock TCU from the unbeaten ranks. The win propelled Utah to a 13-0 season, culminating with a 37-27 upset victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
"It definitely was one of the best decisions I've ever made," said Wynn, who committed to Utah the day after that 2008 TCU game.
Fast forward to this year, where Colorado is mired in a four-game losing streak (and 10-game road losing streak), while Wynn is the quarterback of an undefeated Utah team (8-0, 5-0 Mountain West) ranked No. 6 in the country and set to play No. 4 TCU (9-0, 5-0) at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday.
The game is so big, with so many national implications, ESPN is even airing its College Football GameDay shows from the stadium parking lot on Friday and Saturday.
That Utah is encouraging a sellout crowd to wear black for another "blackout" only should add to the energy inside the stadium, where the Utes boast a 21-game home winning streak. The players, meanwhile, will be wearing specially designed black and camouflage uniforms to promote the Wounded Warrior Program, with the words Duty, Honor, Courage, Commitment, Country, Integrity and Service replacing their last names.
"This is by far the biggest game of my career, of my life," said Wynn. "It's going to be a dogfight. It could come down to inches."
If Wynn is feeling any pressure, he isn't showing it.
"He's a pretty cool customer," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "He handles situations very well."
As a true freshman last season, Wynn had a baptism by fire after initially losing the starting job to junior-college transfer Terrance Cain. Eight games in, with Utah trailing Wyoming 10-3 at halftime, Whittingham inserted Wynn, who promptly led Utah on four scoring drives in his college debut to win 22-10.
That was the second annual "blackout" game. Wynn madke his second career start two weeks later in Texas against the then-No.4 Horned Frogs.
"I've definitely grown a lot since that game," said Wynn, who completed 16 of 32 passes for 219 yards, with one touchdown and one interception in that 55-28 loss. "It was only my second start, with that environment and against that great of a team. I walked away with a lot of things and think I've continued to grow this year. I think I'm a different quarterback than I was last year."
Wynn, who went on to win most valuable player honors in the Poinsettia Bowl last season, ranks 11th in the NCAA in passing efficiency and is averaging 238.5 yards passing per game. He has completed 69 percent of his passes (112 for 162) with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson said Wynn's best attribute — his ability to get the offense in and out of good plays with more audibles at the line of scrimmage — doesn't show up in the stats.
Whittingham, meanwhile, points to Wynn's resiliency, especially last year against TCU.
"He got hit pretty good in that game, but he showed a lot of toughness for a true freshman," Whittingham said.
It won't be any easier this time around against TCU, a team Whittingham believes is even better than the previous two seasons.
The Horned Frogs are No. 1 nationally in overall defense (217.3 yards allowed per game), first in scoring defense (8.7 points per game), first in passing defense (119 yards) and ninth in rushing defense (98.3 yards).
"I think he's going to do well," said center Zane Taylor, a two-time all-Mountain West Conference player. "He's been in a lot of tough games and really done well under pressure. I think he'll play his best game this weekend."
Taylor pointed out that Wynn has done everything asked of him so far.
"I remember when I first saw him, he looked like some beach bum they dragged off the boardwalk," Taylor said. "But he's paid his dues. He gained the weight (30 pounds since arriving), got as strong as he did, learned the playbook quick and came in as a true freshman. He's had his growing pains ... but all that stuff is going to pay off hugely. I'm really excited to see what he'll do."
It only helps that Wynn is being coached by a guy who's been there, done that in Johnson, the winningest quarterback in Utah history and the QB who delivered the game-winning pass against TCU in 2008, and took MVP honors in the Sugar Bowl.
"We talk every day about (what it takes)," said Johnson, who at 23 is just three years older than Wynn. "He knows what's at stake."
No. 11 Oklahoma seeking reinforcements on DL
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Pryce Macon wasn't sure how to take it at first. After finally breaking into the starting lineup in his fifth season at Oklahoma, his coaches were approaching him about a new position.
With injuries starting to add up, they asked Macon to try defensive tackle — even if he was outweighed by 30 pounds or more by the players he was trying to replace.
"Actually, I thought it was a joke at first. But I found out they weren't playing with me," said Macon, who is 6-foot-1, about 250 pounds and didn't get into a game last season.
"I'm a little undersized, but I figure it's just another chapter. I'm just excited to play."
Coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday that Casey Walker will miss his fifth straight game due to injury. Fellow defensive tackle Daniel Noble is doubtful and Ronnell Lewis also likely will be out when the Sooners visit Texas A&M (5-3, 2-2 Big 12) on Saturday. Lewis had been playing at defensive end and linebacker before injuring his right knee two weeks ago.
Oklahoma (7-1, 3-1) had a disruptive tackle combination last year, but Gerald McCoy became the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft and Adrian Taylor still isn't back to 100 percent after breaking his ankle during the Sun Bowl in December.
Macon and fellow defensive end David King are getting a tryout at defensive tackle, while Lane Johnson and Tavaris Jeffries are moving from offense to defense to see if they can help on the front line. Jeffries was a starting guard on Oklahoma's offensive line that had similar injury problems last year, while Johnson was down the depth chart at tight end.
"Obviously, depth is going to help you rushing the passer up front if you have it," defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "We don't right now and so we've got to be creative in finding other ways to create that pressure."
The Sooners had their first sack-free game of the season at Missouri two weeks ago, but Venables said the bigger problem in Oklahoma's first loss was the Tigers rushed for 178 yards, including 97 in the fourth quarter.
Colorado had 76 yards on 24 carries in its 43-10 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday night, when Venables relied more on blitzes than just counting on his tackles.
"We're helping them because we're pressuring and we're moving them, and I think when they're moving, they're pretty good," Venables said. "But they held up nicely and they did some good things in the run game, so I thought they played well."
Macon has spent the last two games rotating in at defensive tackle and says he expects to stay at the new position until his teammates get healthy again. It's still early, but he's already figuring out ways he can use his speed to force fancy footwork by opposing offensive linemen, and learning the consequences when he doesn't use the right technique.
"I feel like a little bowling ball in there. Sometimes, I get pushed around like a pinball," Macon said. "It's just one of those things. You've just to fight through it. The teams needs me to do it, so I've got to do it."
For Jeffries and Johnson, the moves provide a chance to get on the field. Jeffries got passed by when tight ends Gabe Ikard and Eric Mensik transformed into starting offensive linemen this year, and he wasn't in the rotation of five interior offensive linemen.
Johnson was behind Trent Ratterree, James Hanna and freshman Austin Haywood at tight end before he got to test out his new position on Saturday night against Colorado.
"We think it may fit him better, and you know what? In just a week's time, we kind of think it does," Stoops said. "He's a big, strong guy, athletic, plays hard. So, this may be a good fit for him."
Oklahoma still ended up with only one sack against the Buffaloes, coming on a blitz by cornerback Jamell Fleming. Linebacker Tom Wort had four quarterback hurries, the second-most on record at Oklahoma.
"That was one of the things we wanted to work on was getting into the backfield, in front of the quarterback's face and actually putting some hits on the quarterback," Macon said. "We did a better job of at least getting in the backfield and trying to be disruptive."
-- Jeff Latzke
Nebraska freshman CB Evans playing like veteran
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska freshman cornerback Ciante Evans has gone from hoping to get a little playing time to on the cusp of his first start Saturday at Iowa State.
Evans saw mop-up duty in four games before Alfonzo Dennard went out with a concussion in the first quarter of last week's win over Missouri. Evans gave up no big plays, broke up a touchdown pass and stopped quarterback Blaine Gabbert during a goal-line stand.
"We didn't redshirt him because we thought he was a good football player," coach Bo Pelini said Tuesday. "You don't really know until you're thrown into the fire like he was."
Evans said he didn't expect much playing time this season, not with ninth-ranked Nebraska having NFL prospects in Dennard and Prince Amukamara manning the corners.
"I just wanted to get on the field," Evans said. "That's the only thing I wanted to do, was try to play. I thought it was going to be very little because I knew the caliber of them. I was going to try to fall back and watch and learn."
Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini had higher expectations for Evans. Though the Huskers are loaded at defensive back, Evans rose from the bottom of the depth chart to No. 3 cornerback, behind Amukamara and Dennard, in the three weeks of preseason camp.
"He's a real talent," Carl Pelini said, "but at the same time he's got a good understanding of football. He was well-coached in high school. He played with good technique coming in and had a certain swagger and savvy about him."
Evans was solid all afternoon against Missouri and finished with four tackles. He stood out in the third quarter as the Tigers drove from their 20 to inside the Nebraska 1.
Evans broke up what would have been a long touchdown pass to Wes Kemp. He and Jared Crick teamed up to keep Gabbert out of the end zone on a 17-yard scramble to the 1. Then, on third-and-goal from 1 foot, Evans and Cameron Meredith converged on Gabbert to make another stop.
"It was a wonderful experience," he said, recalling the rush of hearing 85,000 fans cheering the play. "I was overwhelmed when I stopped him. I knew my defense had my back. It was crazy."
The goal-line stop initiated by Evans was intriguing because the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder gave up 6 inches and 50 pounds to Gabbert.
"Well, he is a big guy," Evans said, "but I had to do everything in my power for him to not be in the end zone."
The native of Arlington, Texas, made an early verbal commitment to Nebraska in September 2009. He visited no other schools, even though he also had scholarship offers from Iowa, TCU, Utah, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and others.
Dennard took Evans under his wing right away. The two sit together in the film room and quiz each other on what to do in certain situations. Evans called Dennard his mentor.
Dennard didn't practice early in the week and is day-to-day. Bo Pelini said he must be careful with Dennard because of the seriousness of concussions.
Evans said he had mixed emotions when Dennard got hurt colliding with teammate Courtney Osborne as Osborne was trying to make a tackle.
"I was feeling bad because he's like a brother to me," Evans said. "I was nervous, but I had to go out there and play and do what I was coached to do."
According to Carl Pelini, he did it very well.
"He just loves playing football," he said. "I was just impressed with the way he handled himself. He wasn't enamored or star-struck. He just played football, and that's not easy for a rookie to do."
-- Eric Olson
Nebraska QB practices, will be ready for Iowa State
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson says injured quarterback Taylor Martinez practiced "surprisingly well" Tuesday and will be ready to play Saturday at Iowa State.
Martinez sprained his right ankle in the ninth-ranked Cornhuskers' game against Missouri last week and was on the sideline for the second half. He missed practice Monday.
Watson said there's no swelling in Martinez's ankle and that the freshman's workload will increase at Wednesday's practice.
Watson said he was impressed with Martinez's ability to bounce back, calling him "Superman."
Oklahoma State finalizes 2011 football schedule
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma State has finalized its football schedule for the 2011 season, when the Big 12 moves to a 10-team league.
The Cowboys announced Tuesday that they will open with back-to-back-home games against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 3 and Arizona on Sept. 10 before concluding nonconference play at Tulsa on Sept. 17.
Oklahoma State will then open conference play Sept. 24 at Texas A&M. No date for that game had been announced when the Big 12 revealed next year's schedule in late September.
After facing the Aggies, the Cowboys will have an open date before finishing the season with eight straight conference games.
OSU will also play home games against Kansas, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma and road games at Texas, Missouri, Texas Tech and Iowa State.