SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utes football team has to do something it hasn’t done since 2009 — bounce back from a loss to BYU.
After Saturday’s 26-17 loss to the Cougars, snapping a 9-game winning streak against their rivals, the Utes face another tough test against 2-0 San Diego State Saturday night in Carson, California.
The most shocking thing about the loss to BYU was how the Utes got physically manhandled on both sides of the ball.
“They wore us down,” Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “They did a great job of sticking to their game plan, not deviating, just continuing to run the football and softening us up. Usually we don’t soften up. That was very disappointing to see that we were pushed around there in the second half.”
Perhaps the Utes went into the game overconfident, thinking their raw talent would be enough. But the Cougars out-executed Utah offensively and defensively.
“We kind of went into the game thinking we were going to win the game,” said tight end Brant Kuithe, who caught a 20-yard touchdown pass. “Obviously they’re a tough team, but we thought we had it in the bag. We didn’t dominate on both sides of the ball, we had a lot of errors and missed assignments.”
The Utes lost the turnover battle, had the ball for 11 less minutes on offense, and didn’t record a sack against the Cougars.
“On offense, our main issue was mental mistakes,” Whittingham said. “We didn’t get beat physically, we blew assignments way too often of offense particularly up front. Defense was the opposite. We were assignment sound but we just got physically moved around and worn out.”
The Utes lost the game, their national ranking and a little bit of their confidence.
“Somber today, really somber in the facility,” said wide receiver Britain Covey. “We got humbled, which I think is good. But man, you don’t want that to last for more than a day. I just don’t think that that is good for a team. You’ve got to get your swagger back.”
“I think the guys are motivated,” said quarterback Charlie Brewer. “I think we all kind of felt embarrassed. So I think we’ll all have a really good week of practice.”
The Utes will see what their made of this week against an Aztec team that just blew out Arizona. But Whittingham said this is when the leaders need to step up.
“Where leadership is really needed and where it comes to the forefront is when you have adversity and challenging times,” Whittingham said. “You don’t need a bunch of leadership when everything is going great. So, we absolutely need the leaders to step up this week.”
“It’s so easy to put the blame on other things,” added Covey. “Players want to put the blame on coaches, coaches want to put the blame on players. If you go on social media, you’ll see people calling for Coach Whitt’s job. It’s just so easy to get wrapped in whose fault it is, and it’s all about people taking ownership. You go into the season not thinking you’re going to lose a single game, such high expectations. You lose one early to your rival and it’s just devastating. But then you realize, that doesn’t affect a single thing in our conference play. Our goal is still to win the Pac-12 championship, go to the Rose Bowl.”
Utah and San Diego State will square off Saturday at 5:00 p.m. at the home of the L.A. Galaxy, Dignity Health Sports Park.