Utah Utes football: Utes look to restore winning ways at home
SALT LAKE CITY — Rice-Eccles Stadium has given the Utah Utes quite a home-field advantage during Kyle Whittingham's tenure as head coach.
Since 2005, the Utes are 31-8 up on the hill. At one point, between 2007-10, they reeled off 21 consecutive victories at the stadium.
The success, however, has not carried over into Utah's inaugural campaign in the Pac-12. For the first time since 2002, the Utes have lost two straight home games in the same season — suffering back-to-back lopsided losses to conference foes Washington (31-14) and Arizona State (35-14) earlier this month.
After road trips to Pittsburgh and California, Utah returns home Saturday to face Oregon State.
At 3-4 overall and 0-4 in Pac-12 play, the Utes are in desperate need of a victory.
"It's good to get home. It's always good to get home in front of our fans. It provides a big lift for us," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "Our fans at home, particularly the MUSS, have been instrumental in the success we've had at home over the years."
Rice-Eccles Stadium provides a game-day atmosphere that the players also appreciate.
"It's something else," said defensive lineman Dave Kruger. "I would say our stadium is one of the loudest in the Pac-12. I've been to a few stadiums and they can't keep up with us. I really enjoy that."
What Kruger doesn't like, though, is the aftertaste of not prevailing against the Huskies and Sun Devils in Salt Lake City.
"It is weird. I'm not used to losing at home. We hadn't lost at home in a long time," Kruger said. "We've just got to come back and win this next home game."
Linebacker Chaz Walker and offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom are also eager to restore the program's winning ways at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"That's obviously a big thing," Bergstrom said. "Everything's a lot better after you win at home. Everything."
Victories, he explained, are the only way to get losses out of your system.
Prior to this year, Utah had not lost two games at home in the same season since 2006. The Utes haven't dropped three or more since going 1-5 at home in 2000.
Since its official unveiling in 1998, Utah is 59-19 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"Playing in front of the home fans is always great," Walker said. "They help us, definitely, on defense. They're definitely a big help on the defensive side."
The atmosphere at the stadium, he continued, is always great.
What better place, perhaps, to make a little history as well. The Utes are still in search of their first Pac-12 victory. Getting that accomplished and ending a two-game slide at home would make things extra special on Saturday.
"We want to get them both behind us," Kruger said while noting it'll allow the Utes to move forward and focus on the task at hand each week.
Sitting in the Pac-12 South cellar with Colorado (1-7, 0-4), which was projected to struggle this season, isn't where Utah planned to be at this stage of the season.
"It's something we didn't expect, obviously," Bergstrom said. "Obviously, we wanted to do well and be successful and I think we still can be. But, yeah, it's a little embarrassing at this point."
Utes on the air
Oregon State (2-5, 2-2 Pac-12) at Utah (3-4, 0-4)
Saturday, 5 p.m.
Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City
TV: KJZZ, ROOT Sports NW
Radio: 700 AM
Home, sweet home
Utah's record at Rice-Eccles Stadium under head coach Kyle Whittingham.
Wins — Montana State
Losses — Washington, Arizona State
Remaining — Oregon State, UCLA, Colorado
Losses — TCU
Wins — Utah State, Louisville, Air Force, Wyoming, New Mexico, San Diego State
Losses — None
Wins — UNLV, Weber State, Oregon State, Colorado State, TCU, BYU
Losses — None
Wins — UCLA, Utah State, San Diego State, Wyoming, New Mexico
Losses — Air Force
Wins — Northern Arizona, TCU, UNLV, Colorado State
Losses — Boise State, BYU
Wins — Arizona, Utah State, Air Force, Wyoming
Losses — San Diego State, New Mexico
Twitter: @Dirk Facer
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