Utah Utes football: Utah's offense fails to ignite in loss to USU
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
LOGAN — After opening the season with a lopsided win over Northern Colorado, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the one thing that the offense lacked was explosive plays.
It was an area of emphasis as the Utes prepared to face Utah State. And following Friday night's 27-20 overtime loss to the Aggies, it still is.
Utah's offense once again failed to ignite a lot of chunk yardage. The longest pass play netted 30 yards and the biggest on the ground was 15 yards.
That, however, didn't tell the tale of what really happened in Logan.
In Whittingham's postgame summary, he noted the Utes didn't throw or run the ball well and couldn't convert on third downs.
Quarterbacks Jordan Wynn, Jon Hays and Travis Wilson combined to complete 19-of-39 passes for 229 yards. Running back John White finished with 96 yards rushing, matching Utah's final tally on the ground.
The Utes were a paltry 2-of-17 on third-down conversions, failing to move the chains in such situations throughout the entire second half and in overtime.
Pass protection also proved to be a problem as Wynn was sacked three times. He left the game late in the first half with a shoulder injury.
In the first quarter, Utah's offense turned the ball over on a fumble. It was preceded and followed by three drives resulting in punts. Five more would follow by game's end. Other shortcomings included a missed field goal and a loss on downs to close things out in regulation and overtime.
It all contributed mightily to Utah's first loss to Utah State since 1997 and the snapping of the Utes' 12-game win streak against the Aggies.
"It's beyond disappointing. I can't really even put it into words how disappointing it was," senior receiver DeVonte Christopher said. "But it's definitely a reflection of us coming out flat and not executing."
Utah's offense, he added, definitely has a lot of things to work on. Same goes for special teams. The Utes surrendered a costly touchdown on a blocked punt early in the game. At the end a regulation, a bad snap foiled a 52-yard field goal attempt by Coleman Petersen to win the game.
Christopher noted that a lot of corrections are needed.
"I can't speak for the defense because they played great tonight," he said. "As an offense we've got to pick it up a lot."
Like Christopher, Hays was also at a loss of words to explain why the offense was so stagnate at USU.
"I couldn't tell you. We had a good week of practice," Hays said. "We've got good playmakers on this team. I really couldn't tell you why we started so slow."
Ineffectiveness led to some in-game juggling on the offensive line — including the move of senior guard Sam Brenner to tackle.
Whittingham noted it was all part of the ongoing plan to put the best five linemen on the field to protect the quarterback and slow down the pass rush.
In the end, though, it wasn't enough to alter the outcome.
The most pivotal play in overtime turned out to be quite the opposite — involving USU's offense and Utah's defense.
On third-and-9 from the Utah 24, USU quarterback Chuckie Keeton ran 23 yards to the left side to set up what proved to be the decisive touchdown two plays later.
"Their quarterback just got out of the gate and it cost us in the end," Utah's Trevor Reilly said.
Whittingham explained that the Utes were in man coverage and the Aggies ran a flood route.
"Their receivers all went to one side of the field and consequently so did our defenders," he said, while noting that Keeton made the most of situation when Utah lost containment with its defensive end.
The Utes had chances to even the score on the ensuing possession. The most promising opportunity, however, was negated by a pass interference call. It wiped out what would have been a 6-yard touchdown pass from Hays to tight end Jake Murphy.
EXTRA POINTS: Punter Sean Sellwood matched a school record with six punts of greater than 50 yards in the game. ... Utah is now 0-6 over the past two seasons when White fails to reach 100 yards rushing. ... Dave Fagergren and Reilly had career-highs in tackles with nine, tops on the team. LT Filiaga and Nate Fakahafua also had career-bests with eight and six stops, respectively. ... Christopher led the Utes with six receptions. Kenneth Scott scored two touchdowns and finished with a team-high 82 receiving yards. ... Initial X-rays on Wynn, who has undergone three shoulder surgeries since the spring of 2010, were negative. Injury updates on Wynn, starting safety Eric Rowe (hamstring) and others are expected Monday.
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