SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – While the Utes defense was up to the task against Oregon s Saturday night, the Utah offense just wasn’t its usual self, producing just ten points, turning the ball over three times, and failing to finish several critical drives in a 20-17 loss.
“The three biggest issues on offense were lack of chunk yardage, it’s just really hard to score five yards at a time,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “So the lack of chunk yardage, the lack of production in the red zone, and the turnovers.”
Cam Rising is getting a lot of the blame after the first three-interception game of his career. But his teammates are rallying behind him.
“As tough as a loss as that was, it’s not one of those things where I’m blaming him,” said wide receiver DeVaughn Vele. “Maybe us receivers could have made better plays to make it easier for him. Maybe the running backs could have hit the holes harder, or the offensive linemen could have blocked better. It’s a team sport, so to put it all on him is kind of unfair.”
If the Utes would have defeated Oregon, all they would have had to do is beat 1-10 Colorado this Saturday, and they’d be going back to Las Vegas to defend their Pac-12 championship.
While their title hopes aren’t dead yet, the Utes need a lot of help.
First, Utah has to beat Oregon. The Utes also need Oregon State to beat Oregon, Washington to knock off Washington State and UCLA to defeat Cal. If one of those things doesn’t happen, the Utes hopes are done.
“Mathematically, we still have a pathway to the championship,” Whittingham said. “But all we can worry about is our part of the equation.”
“That belief, it has to be unwavering,” added Rising. “We’ve just got to keep focusing on what we’ve got going in house, and hopefully the pieces fall into place for us.”
“Obviously, we want to put this behind us,” Vele said. “It was a tough loss to take, but we understand that we’ve got to just keep moving on and finish the season on a positive note.”
It does say a lot about how far Utah has come that a 7-2 conference season so far is unsatisfying.
“To have a 7-2 record to be a bit of a disappointment is probably a compliment in a way,” Whittingham said. “But we’re not focused on that. We’re trying to repeat as conference champs.”
Utah and Colorado will play Saturday at 2:00 p.m.