Utah Utes report card: Travis Wilson and Co. struggle to score against an average UCLA defense

Published: Saturday, Oct. 13 2012 4:39 p.m. MDT

UCLA punt returner Steven Manfro, left, loses the ball in the end zone as Utah defensive back Reggie Topps, second from left, knocks Manfro away to allow Utah's Ryan Lacy, second from right, to recover the ball for a touchdown during the first half of their NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Associated Press

The Utes first appearance in the Rose Bowl since 2006 featured a change at quarterback. It wouldn't figure into a Utah win, as the Utes remained winless in the Pac-12 this season.

Freshman Travis Wilson threw for 220 yards in his first career start, but UCLA beat the Utes for their second Pac-12 victory, a 21-14 win.

Offense: Wilson went 23-of-33 but threw no touchdowns and one interception. Perhaps the powers that be (Kyle Whittingham and Brian Johnson) decided to start Wilson because they believed he could produce just as much on the field as senior Jon Hays, who had thrown for 626 yards in four games. He was successful in distributing the ball to his top receivers — Dres Anderson (nine receptions, 70 yards), Jake Murphy (four receptions, 65 yards) and DeVonte Christopher (four receptions, 54 yards). With 44 yards on 11 carries, John White IV was once again surprisingly unspectacular, and Wilson was ineffective on the ground with 10 yards on 11 carries. The Utes really could have been more effective against a UCLA defense that allows 24 points per game. GRADE: C-

Defense: The Utes can't be faulted too much for holding the Bruins to just three touchdowns, more than three points below their scoring average entering the game. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley was held to a respectable 183 yards passing, and running back Johnathan Franklin managed just 79 on 22 carries. Though the Bruins did convert 10-of-17 third downs, their 354 total yards and fumble gave Utah opportunities to come out on top. GRADE: B+

Special Teams: With more than 54 yards per punt, Sean Sellwood was fantastic. In fact, a 65-yard punt from his foot in the first quarter preceded a fumble by UCLA's Steven Manfro, which led to a 7-7 tie. The Utes' return game, like the Bruins', was once again largely inconsequential. GRADE: B+

Overall: Utah was simply unable to foster a sustainable offense. That lost the ballgame. The decision to play Travis Wilson is a smart one if he indeed can give the Utes as good a performance as Hays. With additional play, he'll probably provide more than Hays could have. White needs to figure out if he will emulate the John White IV of last season. In terms of Pac-12 play, this season sure is emulating 2011. Given the Utes' strong finish last year, that could be a positive thing. Wilson's likely improvement may just point to the same. GRADE: C+

Rhett Wilkinson attends Utah State University and is the co-founder of Aggie BluePrint, USU's first student magazine. He's previously been an intern for the Deseret News. He can be reached at rhett.wilkinson@usu.edu or on Twitter: @wilklogan

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