SAN DIEGO — It's been a long week for the Utah Utes, again.
For the second consecutive Saturday, they'll take the field on the heels of a stinging loss.
A week ago at Notre Dame, the Utes were coming off a 47-7 setback at home to TCU.
Tonight at Qualcomm Stadium, they'll face San Diego State a week after suffering a 28-3 loss to the Fighting Irish.
After opening the season with eight straight wins, Utah has suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time since 2007.
Now, the Utes will try to avoid losing for a third consecutive time — something they haven't done since head coach Kyle Whittingham's first year at the helm in 2005.
The avoidance, thereof, won't be easy.
San Diego State is no longer a pushover. The Aztecs (7-3 overall, 4-2 in Mountain West Conference play) are bowl eligible for the first time since 1998. Their three losses this season (Missouri, BYU and TCU) came by a combined total of just 11 points, and all setbacks came on the road.
"We understand how good they are," Whittingham said. "There's no doubt about that."
In turn, San Diego State coach Brady Hoke has respect for Utah (8-2, 5-1).
"We're playing a team that's been in the top 25 all year. They're a very good football team. They have very good athletes and they're coached well," he said. "It'll be a challenge for us. We have to complete a football game and play all four quarters."
The Utes, understandably, have similar plans. Bad quarters led to being outscored by a combined 75-10 in the two setbacks to TCU and Notre Dame.
"We need to get back on track after poor showings the past two weeks," Whittingham said. "We still believe that we have a very good football team, but we need to regain the confidence and energy that allowed us to win our first eight ballgames."
First and foremost, he added, is to get the offense back in sync — moving the chains and putting points on the board.
"Bottom line, it all comes back to execution," said Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn. "If we just execute, it kind of takes care of itself."
The Utes have scored just one touchdown over the past nine quarters. They crossed the goal line 48 times in the eight victories, including 43 on offense.
"We're definitely not going to take them lightly," said SDSU's Andrew Preston. "They were in the top five just two weeks ago."
Then came the fall. Question is, will a rise follow?
"It's always frustrating to lose. Nobody loves to lose. Everybody loves to win," said Utah defensive tackle Sealver Siliga. "I think the mind-frame now is just to get better."
Utes on the air
No. 23 Utah (8-2, 5-1 MWC) at SDSU (7-3, 4-2)
Tonight, 8 p.m. (MT)
TV: The mtn.
Radio: 700 AM