Utah Utes football: Utes need to finish business in red zone

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 18 2011 11:32 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — As far as Utah coach Kyle Whittingham sees things, Utah's offense came up empty in the red zone in last Saturday's 26-14 win at Pittsburgh.

Although the Utes officially scored at a 75 percent clip after moving inside the Panthers' 20-yard-line, not one of the four drives resulted in touchdowns — a first this season.

"You don't figure in field goals because that's a loss as far as I'm concerned," Whittingham said while noting that red-zone production is Utah's biggest issue offensively.

Eliminating costly false starts, personal fouls and sacks, which are magnified in the red zone, is the "first order of business" as the Utes prepare to face California later this week.

"The most pressing issue on offense is scoring touchdowns in the red zone," said Whittingham, who considers it an execution issue.

Prior to last week's shutout, Utah's touchdown percentage in the red zone was 52.9 percent. The Utes reached the end zone in 9-of-17 opportunities.

INJURY UPDATE: With the addition of tight end Dallin Rogers (knee), the Utes now have four starters out for the season with injuries. Quarterback Jordan Wynn, who will have surgery on his non-throwing shoulder this week, headlines a group that also includes punt returner Charles Henderson (knee) and safety Keith McGill (shoulder)

"They're on the shelf for the rest of the year," Whittingham said before noting that wide receiver DeVonte Christopher and running back Tauni Vakapuna are questionable this week with ankle injuries. "We hope to get them back, but time will tell."

SACKFEST IN PITT: Utah gave up what Whittingham called a "boatload" of sacks last Saturday in Pittsburgh. The Panthers had seven.

Whittingham, though, didn't lay all the blame on the offensive line for the Utes' poorest day protecting the passer. He said they were responsible for three of the sacks.

While noting other variables came into play, Whittingham credited Pitt for having a good defensive scheme.

"It was not a good day protecting the passer," he said. "You're not going to win many ballgames giving up seven sacks. Fortunately we came away with the win in spite of that."

EXTRA POINTS: Oregon State has returned 700 tickets for the Oct. 29 game against the Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Fans may purchase them by calling 801-581-UTIX, going online at UtahUtes.com, or going to the stadium ticket office . . . Utah is 3-0 this season when leading after three quarters and 0-3 when trailing . . . The Utes and the Bears have both lost to USC and Washington this season.

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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