Utah Utes football: Turnovers help, hurt both Utah and Oregon
Tom Smart, Deseret News
EUGENE, ORE. — Until Saturday, the Utah football team had not done a very good job of creating turnovers so far this year. In two games, the Utes had just a pair of interceptions, including a meaningless one on the last play of the San Jose State game, and no fumble recoveries.
The Utes changed all that Saturday against Oregon with four turnovers, which led to three scores and prevented one for the Ducks.
In the end, however, it was turnovers that eventually doomed the Utes as two interceptions in the final 5:13 of the game kept the Utes from a comeback victory and ended their best-in-the-nation winning streak at 16.
For much of the game, it was turnovers that kept the Utes from getting blown out.
Their first score came after a fumbled punt at the Oregon 19. The second score, a field goal, followed another fumble by Oregon in Utah territory. Then late in the third quarter, Robert Johnson picked up a fumble caused by a hit from linebacker Mike Wright and ran 28 yards for a touchdown that brought the Utes within four at 28-24.
Later, Johnson picked off a Jeremiah Masoli pass in the end zone to halt an Oregon threat midway through the fourth quarter.
At that point, the Utes had no turnovers compared to four for the Ducks, but it wouldn't last.
On the Utes' next drive, 3rd and 16 at the Utah 38, Terrance Cain's pass was picked off by linebacker Eddie Pleasant and returned 17 yards, setting up an Oregon field goal.
"He came out of nowhere and I didn't see him, but that's no excuse," Cain said.
The Utes still had a chance to tie the game, and thanks to a couple of passes and a 15-yard facemask penalty, they moved into OU territory.
With 2nd and 4 from the Oregon 38, the Utes went for it all and Jereme Brooks appeared to be open behind the defense. However, Cain's pass was underthrown and picked off by John Boyett to end the Utes' hopes with 1:56 left.
"He was pretty much open," Cain said. "I could have thrown it outside more and given him a chance."
Johnson, who had the fumble recovery for a touchdown and the end zone interception, wasn't too impressed with himself afterward.
"They came my way and I made them, but at the same time, we didn't win, so it doesn't mean that much to me," he said. "I messed up on a few plays — there was a big pass, I kind of messed on that and the big run, I messed up on that. So I put the blame on me."
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