Turns out the Utes lost more than a football game when quarterback Brett Elliott was knocked out of bounds on a failed two-point conversion attempt with eight seconds remaining in Saturday's 28-26 loss at Texas A&M.
Elliott, Utah's starter for the past eight games, suffered a broken wrist on the play and will be sidelined indefinitely. He fell to the ground hard after a collision with Texas A&M defender Jonte Buhl near the 2-yard line.
Utah coach Urban Meyer, who will discuss Elliott's physical evaluation at his weekly press conference today, said a decision on a new starter either sophomore Alex Smith or senior Lance Rice will come later this week. The Utes host California Thursday (5:45 p.m., ESPN).
Smith completed 5-of-7 passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns in Utah's 40-20 win over Utah State on Aug. 28. He didn't see action against Texas A&M.
Rice, meanwhile, has yet to take a snap this season. Even so, Meyer insists the veteran of 19 career starts has always remained in the mix. Elliott, Rice and Smith were on equal ground in camp.
Prior to being injured, Elliott had completed 18-of-40 passes for 210 yards against Texas A&M. His only touchdown toss came a play before the failed conversion when he teamed with John Madsen on a 45-yard scoring strike.
It capped a Utah comeback bid that came up just short. The Utes trailed 21-0 at halftime and 28-13 early in the fourth quarter.
Nine fumbles (three lost) and 12 penalties proved insurmountable. After a shaky start, Utah's defense wound up limiting Texas A&M to 1-of-9 on third-down conversions. Dave Revill led the Utes with 11 tackles. Corey Dodds recovered two A&M fumbles, while Tommy Hackenbruck grabbed another during the second-half rally.
A missed field goal and a failed PAT attempt contributed to the shortfall by game's end.
Offensively, tailback Brandon Warfield stole the show with 181 yards and three touchdowns. Utah's depleted receiving corps suffered a blow when starter Steve Savoy suffered bruised ribs in the first half. He did not return and is listed as questionable for this week.
Teammate Paris Warren, who didn't make the trip after being charged with retail theft for allegedly taking $10 worth of condoms from a Salt Lake grocery store, is expected to return to the starting lineup against Cal. He had a team-high seven catches in the opener against USU.
Though Warren's absence may have contributed to Utah's struggles in the air, Meyer wouldn't say. He's focusing on the big picture. Only six of Utah's 22 first downs came on passing plays.
"We need to be balanced and we're not," Meyer said. "We'll struggle until we are balanced."