After losing to co-Mountain West Conference leaders TCU and Utah in consecutive weeks, the Colorado State Rams were naturally asked to compare the two teams following their 49-16 loss to the Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
They gave a slight edge to the Utes.
"I hate to put TCU down in any way, but that Utah offense is good the best I've seen this year out of anybody," said Colorado State defensive back Nick Oppenneer, who intercepted a Brian Johnson pass in the second quarter of Saturday's game, and was also beaten for a touchdown. "TCU's good, too. That will be a great matchup."
It was a predictable answer considering the Rams mostly held the Horned Frogs in check in their 13-7 home loss last week. It was a different story on Saturday as the Utes put together their most complete offensive performance of the season. Utah racked up a season-high 549 yards of total offense. The Utes rushed for a season-high 327 yards, and were 5-of-9 in third-down conversions.
When the Utes pulled away from the Rams in the second half, they did it with a stretch option play run by quarterback Corbin Louks. All it took was for one player to miss an assignment, and it seemed like a few of the Rams were out of position in Louks' touchdown runs of 21 and 69 yards.
"That play is tough," Oppenneer said. "Everybody has a certain assignment and it seemed like one guy couldn't get off his block."
The Rams' offense had trouble with the same things they've struggled with all season against the Utes. Defenses stack the box to stop running back Gartrell Johnson, who rushed for 95 yards on 20 carries on Saturday. It's up to quarterback Billy Farris to take advantage of one-on-one matchups in the passing game, and he rarely did so against the Utes.
After scoring a touchdown on their first possession, the Rams were held to three field goals the rest of the way. Farris was 19-of-33 passing for 166 yards and a touchdown.
"It's kind of embarrassing when they're daring you to beat them and you can't hit the big play," Farris said. "But their corners are the best corners we've played against."
Farris also gave a slight edge to the Utes over the Horned Frogs.
"Utah is pretty solid, man," Farris said. "We had chances to make some plays, but I think we got by TCU more. Their corners and secondary, we got by them more."
Coach Steve Fairchild said he isn't good at comparing teams he's played against, but did say that Utah and TCU are both built by very good defenses. He was more concerned with his defense's inability to get off the field on third down, and his offense's lack of execution in the red zone."In the end we just didn't make enough plays," Fairchild said. "We had our chances, just like (against) TCU, we had plenty of chances."