Utah Utes football: Utes hope to get WR DeVonte Christopher back on track
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — DeVonte Christopher was understandably upset when he left the locker room following Utah's 21-7 loss at Oregon State.
The senior fumbled a pitch near the goal line, costing the Utes a prime opportunity to tie the game in the third quarter. Earlier in the game, an overthrown pass intended for Christopher deflected off his hand and was intercepted.
"It's been a frustrating year for DeVonte," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "It hasn't unfolded exactly like he would have hoped, probably not even close to how he hoped."
After leading Utah in receiving the past two seasons, Christopher is mired in what Whittingham calls "a little bit of a funk." He has 18 receptions for 199 yards, trailing tight end Jake Murphy and wide receiver Dres Anderson for the team lead. Christopher's 11.1 yards per catch is well off his career average of 16.4.
Right now, Whittingham said, Christopher is taking a backseat to receivers like Kenneth Scott, Anthony Denham and Anderson.
"He's just got to keep working. He's just got to keep doing everything right in practice," Whittingham said of getting Christopher back in the rotation. "He's a guy who has done a lot of good things for us in the past, made some big catches."
Christopher didn't have any receptions on Saturday.
It didn't sit well.
Utah quarterback Travis Wilson said Christopher was really down on himself following the game. As the Utes prepare for this week's home game against California, helping Christopher bounce back is a priority.
"Whatever he needs I'll make sure I'm there for him," Wilson said.
TIGHTENING RACE: Junior college transfer Kelvin York has been closing in on senior running back John White in recent weeks. So much so, in fact, that Whittingham said its almost become a "1" and "1-A" situation.
"We're very pleased with Kelvin and what he's done and he will continue to get more carries," Whittingham explained.
In Saturday's loss to Oregon State, White had 20 carries for 68 yards and York netted 52 on 10 attempts.
"John (White) is running hard and doing things very similar to what he did last year," Whittingham said. "But Kelvin (York) has closed that gap and he's going to get a lot of the carries going forward."
DA BEARS: While noting that Cal, like Utah, has had struggles putting everything together this season, Whittingham emphasized that the Golden Bears are dangerous with a lot of skill on both sides of the ball.
"Make no mistake, they are one of the more talented teams in the conference and it'll take our best effort to get the win," he said.
INJURY UPDATE: Junior safety Quade Chappuis will miss the rest of the season because of shoulder surgery. Chappuis made 23 tackles (16 solo) and forced a fumble over five games and four starts. Whittingham also announced that two starters — linebacker Jacoby Hale and left guard Jeremiah Tofaeono — will be sidelined for 3-4 weeks with undisclosed injuries.
KICKING WOES: Utah hasn't made a field goal since the win over BYU on Sept. 15. Senior kicker Coleman Petersen has made just 3-of-8 attempts in a season of struggles. Whittingham acknowledged that the lack of success is influencing decisions, turning parts of the field into four-down territory.
It's a situation Whittingham would like to change. At some point — or points — over the next five games, a lengthy kick may be necessary.
"We're working hard everyday on it," Whittingham said, while noting that backup Nick Marsh has had every opportunity to take over as the primary kicker. The junior, however, has yet to overtake Petersen in practice. Petersen, it is hoped, will develop more consistency in games.
"It continues to be a work in progress," Whittingham said. "It's been one of our deficiencies this year and we've just got to keep working it."
EXTRA POINTS: It's Utah's annual "Blackout Game" and the Utes will be sporting black uniforms. … Kickoff time for the Nov. 3 home game against Washington State will be 1 p.m. and be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks. … Utah athletics director Chris Hill will present a red jersey to new university president David W. Pershing at halftime. Pershing will be inaugurated on Thursday.
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