Utah Utes football: Ute offense is struggling big time

Published: Sunday, Nov. 14 2010 11:28 p.m. MST

Head coach Kyle Whittingham of Utah walks during a timeout in the loss to Notre Dame. Notre Dame whipped the Utes 28-3.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Utah's "ineptness" on offense drew the wrath of head coach Kyle Whittingham. After Saturday's surprising 28-3 loss at Notre Dame, he identified it as the "biggest factor" in the game.

The Utes have scored just one touchdown and 10 total points in lopsided losses to TCU (47-7) and the Fighting Irish.

Eight quarters of futility have proved costly.

Utah averaged 44 points per game during an 8-0 start to the season. The offense scored 43 touchdowns (four others came on special teams, one other on defense) and set up nine field goals during the stretch.

The production allowed the Utes to climb as high as fifth in the Bowl Championship Series standings.

Then came TCU, Notre Dame and a tumble in the rankings and BCS standings. This week, Utah is clinging precariously to national recognition. The Utes are No. 23 in the BCS, 24th in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 25th in the Associated Press rankings.

Utah's offense is in a rut and a serious one at that.

Aside from a 19-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Wynn to Matt Asiata in the fourth quarter of the program's worst home loss since 1989, the only other points the Utes have mustered in the month of November came via a 46-yard field goal by Joe Phillips early in Saturday's setback.

A closer look at the situation reveals that Utah's only two games with less than 327 yards of total offense were the losses. Two of the Utes' three lowest first down tallies of the season also have come in the current stretch.

Not good news considering Utah's final two opponents — San Diego State and BYU — scored 35 and 49 points, respectively, on Saturday.

Keeping up, obviously, won't be easy.

"I don't really know what the issues are. Something has to be done," Wynn said. "We have to change something and start heading in the right direction."

Wynn has completed 40-of-74 passes for 342 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions in the losses.

Before leaving Notre Dame, Whittingham acknowledged that quarterback play is something that would be evaluated.

"That's some place that we have to perform. I don't care what level of football you're at, that is a key position and you've got to have performance and production," he said. "And that's a couple of weeks in a row now we haven't been able to get as much as we needed to."

Another thing to ponder, is it too late in the season to put senior Terrance Cain back into the mix? Then again, he is 9-1 in his career as Utah's starting quarterback. Wynn is 9-4.

The Utes also have struggled running the ball in recent weeks. Seniors Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide have teamed for just 128 yards over the past two games. Two of Wide's three lowest yardage games of the season have come in the setbacks, as has Asiata's least productive outing.

"If you can't establish balance in your offense and run efficiently, it makes everything difficult," Whittingham said. "That's two weeks in a row now we were not able to do that."

Whittingham also noted that he didn't think the Utes "ever had control of the line of scrimmage" against Notre Dame.

The offensive woes, obviously, are widespread. An abundance of penalties didn't help the situation last weekend. Utah was flagged 11 times, including 10 in the first half.

"We killed ourselves with illegal procedure penalties and offsides," said offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom. "It was not good. We just shot ourselves in the foot."

As such, the Utes dropped their second consecutive game — something they haven't done since the first two contests in 2007.

"We've been doing the same thing every week. We haven't changed anything," said wide receiver Jereme Brooks. "But what we're doing right now isn't working."

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com

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