SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – With a third straight Pac-12 championship now out of the picture for the Utah football team, the Utes are hoping to reach the 10-win mark for fourth straight season, not counting the shortened Covid 2020 season.
Utah (7-3, 4-3 Pac-12) will play at #21 Arizona on Saturday before closing out the regular season against Colorado at home.
If the Utes play like they did in the first half against #5 Washington on Saturday, they’ll have a great chance to reach double digit wins again.
Against the Huskies, the Utes scored 28 points, had 328 total yards, 15 first downs in the first half. Everything was working.
“We were outstanding in the first half,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said on Monday. “We had four straight touchdown drives, over 300 yards of offense, a bunch of first downs, and really our best half of football maybe of the season.”
“We were just executing and trusting our coaching,” quarterback Bryson Barnes said. “Kind of just letting things fall into place. We put in the work throughout the week, and we let it all out in the first half.”
But then in the second half, nothing. The Utes scored zero points, had 54 total yards and just two first downs as the Utes fell to the Huskies, 35-28. Whittingham says he’s never seen anything like it.
“I’ve been coaching a lot of years, and I’ve never seen such a dramatic difference in two halves by an offense,” he said. “I mean, we went from outstanding, to not being able to do much of anything in the second half. There’s really no explanation for it. We watched the film three times and can’t tell you why we were so productive in the first half. You know, had we just done half of that in the second half we probably could’ve come away with a victory.”
“We just can’t take our foot off the pedal,” said offensive lineman Keaton Bills. “Just making sure all four quarters, we’re giving it our all. We need to focus on the little things every single quarter because it’s a four quarter game.”
So now that the quest for a 3-peat is over, the Utes still can get to ten wins this year, which would be saying a lot for how many injuries they’ve had.
“Very proud of our guys for what they’ve accomplished so far,” Whittingham said. “To be 7-3 right now is a tribute to our players and their toughness and the depth of our roster. We got to take the same approach and understand that there’s more football to be played. You got to rebound, you got to respond.”
“You don’t want to hang onto [the loss] for too long,” said running back Ja’Quinden Jackson. “Because then it’ll roll into next week and then the following week so you just kind of talk about it a little bit, dust it off, get up, and lets go back to work.”
Utah and Arizona will square off at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Tucson.