Utah Utes football: Utes seek consistency with tweaked offensive scheme
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's offense continues to be a work in progress. Things, however, did get better between the season-opening win over Montana State and last week's Pac-12 loss to USC.
"We did improve. But I think we all know there's still some work to be done," said quarterback Jordan Wynn. "That's just how it goes. So we're going to get after it this week again in practice and just continue to get better."
The Utes enter Saturday's game at BYU on the heels of improved numbers between the first two weeks of the season. The increases include a rise in total offense (319 yards from 292), first downs (19 from 16) and passing yardage (238 from 101).
Wide receiver DeVonte Christopher fueled the latter with a career-high 11 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. Teammate Dres Anderson added six receptions for 77 yards.
"That is definitely the type of game we got to have as a receiving corps. We played good as an offense, we've just got to make more plays," Christopher said. "We made some plays but we've got to make even more plays. That's the nature of the game. As far as the game goes, we didn't win so obviously we've got to step our performances up even more."
Like every other coach in the country, Utah's Kyle Whittingham wants to see things get better every week. Continual improvement and the addressing of deficiencies go hand-in-hand.
As such, there's always something to work on.
"The throw game was improved. It was more productive. We took more shots downfield and had more receivers making plays on the ball," Whittingham said after the USC game. "The run game was not good and we've got to continue to address that. Going forward we need more production in the run game."
The Utes ran for 191 yards against Montana, but just 81 against USC. Junior college transfer John White IV topped the team in both games, rushing for 150 in the opener but only 56 last Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
While the passing and running games have experienced wide yardage swings thus far, several other aspects of the offense have been more stable over the first two games.
On the positive side, the Utes are 6-for-6 in the red zone and have turned the ball over only once (losing a fumble at USC). Areas of improvements include protecting Wynn (four sacks) and a paltry 9-of-28 success in third-down situations.
Right tackle Tony Bergstrom acknowledged things could be better up front. The biggest issue, he explained, is "we're not assignment-sound."
Bergstrom dismisses the notion that it may have something to do with new offensive coordinator Norm Chow's tweaked scheme. It's not really a huge difference, he said.
The early issues, Bergstrom noted, are more likely because of a little inexperience and it being a new year.
"I don't know what it is," he said. "We'll fix it this week, though."
Time may be the answer. Whittingham noted that both Utah's and BYU's offenses may be off to sluggish starts because "they're both in their infancy" with new coordinators.
"Neither of them has got on track at this point of the year," he said. "Neither of them has really found a rhythm."
Utah's quest for consistency is being sought on a daily basis.
"That's the plan," Christopher said. "To keep getting better and better."
The receiving corps is taking it to heart.
"That's our goal every week. We come into practice and we're working hard to perform on Saturdays," Christopher said. "Our mindset going into every Saturday is to contribute to the offense as much as we can."
The Utes, no doubt, hope such determination is contagious.
"We need to have consistent play," Whittingham said.
Consistently better, that is.
Utah's offense is currently ranked 75th in rushing (136 ypg), 93rd in scoring (20.5 ppg) and pass efficiency (110.7 rating) and 95th in passing (169.5 ypg). The Utes are 97th in total offense (305.5 ypg).
EXTRA POINTS: The Utes are outscoring the opposition in the first three quarters this season — 17-10 in the first, 14-7 in the second and 10-7 in the third — but trail 9-0 in fourth quarters. … With Wynn on the field over the past three seasons, Utah is 58-of-62 (93.5 percent) in the red zone. … White is averaging 5.3 yards on 39 carries. … Christopher now has four 100-yard receiving games in his career. … Four Utah offensive linemen — Bergstrom, Sam Brenner, Tevita Stevens and Miles Mason — have played all 132 snaps this season.
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