Utah Utes football: U. hopes to rebound from disastrous loss
Tom Smart, Deseret News
The battle of unbeatens turned out to be a beat-down.
"We got knocked in the face — kind of like a boxing match," said defensive end Christian Cox. "We got hit and were dazed. We just got pounded."
A day later, Utah also got smacked in the Bowl Championship Series standings. The Utes (8-1) dropped from fifth to 14th and well out of BCS bowl contention. They also fell out of the top 10 in both major polls, landing at No. 15.
TCU, meanwhile, is No. 3 across the board.
"I don't see a weakness in that football team," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "I thought they were good last year. They are even better this year."
The Horned Frogs dominated the Utes on both sides of the ball. They racked up 558 yards of total offense and their defense gave up just 199.
TCU quarterback Andy Dalton had a stellar day, completing 21-of-26 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns.
"He just came in and made plays when he had to and when we had to make a big play we didn't," said Utah cornerback Brandon Burton. "They were just a better team today."
Utah's offense crossed the 50-yard line just once — on a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter — as the Utes suffered their most lopsided loss at home since 1989.
"We definitely didn't play to our potential," said Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn, who completed only 16-of-35 passes for 148 yards and turned the ball over three times. "I didn't play very well and that's what happens."
TCU recorded four takeaways (two fumbles and a pair of interceptions) in extending its regular-season winning streak to 23 games. The Horned Frogs (10-0) have outscored their six Mountain West Conference opponents this season by a 236-23 margin.
"I've got to believe they're in the conversation for being the best team in the country," Whittingham said.
The Utes, he added, needed to play a near-perfect game to have a chance.
"We just didn't make the plays that needed to be made," said wide receiver Shaky Smithson. "The game is based on momentum and they had the momentum from the jump."
Unlike last season's 55-28 loss in Fort Worth, where TCU raced out to a 35-7 lead in the second quarter, Utah was determined to get off to a better start this time around.
It didn't happen. The Horned Frogs led 20-0 after one quarter, 23-0 at halftime and built a 40-0 advantage before a 19-yard touchdown pass from Wynn to Matt Asiata with 11:12 left to play put the Utes on the board.
Wynn was at a loss of words in explaining the slow start.
"I don't know," he said. "I thought we had good energy coming out of the locker room. No answer."
The poor beginning eventually led to booing from the home crowd.
"It hurts. It hurts a lot. (It) definitely makes us want to play harder because the last thing you want is your own home (crowd) to show you how they feel about you in a negative way," said center Zane Taylor. "We ended a big streak at home and it hurts. It hurts everyone here. Anyone that loves this program, it hurts. It doesn't hurt anyone more than this team, the guys who put on that uniform and do the work on the field."
The senior captain, who may wear his heart on his sleeve more than any of the Utes, had even more to say on the topic.
"So it's our No. 1 priority to start a new streak," he said. "And to make sure we don't feel this way the rest of the season."
The first chance to do so is Saturday at Notre Dame (4-5).
"We're going to find out a lot about this team," Cox said. "(We'll) find out who the guys are, and I have complete faith in our team, in our defense and our offense, that we'll all come back to work and bounce back. We're going to finish this season right."
Whittingham noted that the Utes still have a chance to have a very, very good season.
"We've got to put his one behind us as quickly as we can," he said. "Make the corrections and move on."
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