Utah quarterback Terrance Cain can think of no better way to end his career than with a win against No. 10 Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Wednesday night.
It would be appropriate for him, considering all he has gone through. Cain was the starter last season before losing his job to Jordan Wynn midway through the eighth game of the season. He started two games this season when Wynn had a sprained thumb.
He gets the start against Boise State with Wynn out because of a shoulder injury. Cain is 9-1 as a starter, perhaps the most experienced backup in the country. But more impressively, he sat patiently and never complained about getting benched.
“It’s been tough, but I’m a team player,” Cain said in a recent phone interview. “It’s all about the team. Whatever works for the team, I’m down for.”
Utah quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson says it is that attitude that permeates the entire Utes team, and one that has been an example for his teammates to follow.
“Terrance is the most unselfish person I know,” Johnson said. “He’s all about the team and he’s a great teammate. Everybody on this team loves him. He’s the type of guy that makes our program as successful as it’s been the last couple of years. We have unselfish disciplined guys who put the team ahead of themselves. Terrance is a key example of that, and now he is going to try to make the most of his opportunity.”
No. 19 Utah (10-2) could be in a worse situation against the Broncos (11-1). How many other teams can boast a backup quarterback with as much success as Cain? He also brings more versatility than Wynn because he is more mobile.
One key to watch is just how much Utah gets him out of the pocket. Boise State has struggled against the run in its past two games, giving up more than 200 yards on the ground to Nevada and Utah State. Both teams feature mobile quarterbacks, though the Nevada offense is unique in what it asks Colin Kaepernick to do.
Middle linebacker Byron Hout missed those games with a foot injury and is out against Utah, and he could be a reason the Broncos have slipped.
Johnson said Utah would tailor a game plan toward Cain’s strengths, but would not say whether that meant more carries for Cain.
“There might be a couple, but the core of our offense doesn’t change much,” Johnson said. “Terrance’s skill set adds a different dynamic. With his ability to make plays with his legs, we have to find ways to utilize him and put him situations to be successful.”
While Cain looked good in his two starts this season, he also looked shaky in his last appearance against BYU. Utah benched a struggling Wynn, but Cain struggled, too. He went 2-of-7 for 8 yards with two interceptions before Wynn went back into the game.
But with time to prepare as the starter, Cain hopes for a different outcome in Las Vegas to end his Utah career.
“Closing with a win would feel great. It would be the best thing yet,” he said.