Utah Utes football: Trying to work through growing pains
EUGENE, Ore. — Utah's lengthy winning streak has come to an end. Same goes for inclusion in the Top 25 rankings.
Saturday's 31-24 setback to Oregon at Autzen Stadium cost the Utes a lot of things.
It didn't, however, take everything off the table.
"We've got a lot of football ahead of us. We have nine games left," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "Our first and foremost goal every year is to win the Mountain West Conference championship. This does nothing to derail that. But we've certainly got a lot of things to work on, a lot of areas to improve."
The Utes' first loss since November of 2007 — snapping the nation's longest active win streak at 16 games — exposed shortcomings on offense, defense and special teams.
"It's not any one thing," Whittingham said. "We've just got a lot of stuff to continue to improve upon."
On offense, quarterback Terrance Cain is coming off a subpar passing performance against the Ducks. The junior completed just 20-of-41 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted twice.
When asked about how Cain did in his third career start for Utah, Whittingham opted to delay his evaluation.
"Obviously he threw a couple of interceptions. But I don't want to make any statements until I have a chance to see the film and see why he made the decisions he made," Whittingham said. "We're still a work in progress, as is Terrance."
The Utes, he noted in his postgame remarks, are working through some "growing pains."
It was especially evident in the first half when Oregon returned a punt for a touchdown. The Ducks, who forced the Utes to kick the ball away seven times over the first two quarters, also made a stop on fourth-and-2 and built a 21-7 lead.
Though Utah later climbed back into contention and pulled to within 28-24 in the second half, the poor start proved to be costly.
"Our guys fought hard and I'm proud of everyone for that. Nobody quit and we had a chance to win it there at the end of the ballgame," said senior captain Zane Beadles. "But we can't have an offensive first half like we did and expect to win."
It'll be a point of emphasis as the Utes prepare for Saturday's home game against Louisville.
"We'll take a look at the film on Monday — learn from it, put it behind us and move on to the next opponent," Beadles said.
The all-conference left tackle didn't like how it felt to lose Saturday. ... He called it a "foreign feeling."
Senior linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, who is also a team captain, said he hopes it's something that won't be felt again the rest of the season.
The Utes, Sylvester explained, simply made too many mistakes in Oregon. The teams were evenly matched, he said, and it showed on the field.
"It was a close game, a great college football game. If you like college football you live for this," Sylvester said. "Unfortunately we came out on the wrong side of this. We'll try to bounce back next week."
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