Utah football: Utes enter bye week on disappointing note

Published: Sunday, Oct. 27 2013 11:11 p.m. MDT

Utah Utes wide receiver Dominique Hatfield (26) is tackled by USC Trojans safety Josh Shaw (6) as the University of Utah is defeated by USC 19-3 in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

LOS ANGELES — It doesn’t take a lot of scrutiny to figure out why the Utah Utes failed to pick up their first win at USC since 1916. Saturday’s 19-3 loss at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is pretty easy to diagnose.

A quick glance of the stat sheet pretty much says it all — no touchdowns, 201 yards of total offense, 13 first downs, six sacks surrendered, three interceptions and one lost fumble. Those stats paint a good picture of what Utah coach Kyle Whittingham referred to as the bottom line.

“If you play offense like that you really don’t have much of a chance to win,” he said.

Such was the case as the Utes fell to 4-4 overall and 1-4 in Pac-12 play. Whittingham noted that their second consecutive loss left them feeling disappointed and a little bit discouraged entering a bye week.

Whittingham acknowledged that one big question to analyze is what to do quarterback-wise.

“We’ve got to answer that question,” he said.

Both Travis Wilson and Adam Schulz struggled against USC. Wilson, who played with a glove to protect a sprained index finger on his throwing hand, completed 5 of 14 passes for 51 yards. He was intercepted twice and lost a fumble. Schulz was 7 for 17 for 79 yards and also threw a pick.

“We’re going to take a long look at every option during this bye week,” Whittingham said. “Because if there is going to be any dramatic or drastic changes this is the time to do it.”

Whittingham admitted growing tired of the offensive struggles, vowing that everyone will keep working to find the answers to get better.

On Saturday, though, Whittingham gave a lot of credit to USC’s defense. He said the Trojans were the Pac-12’s top-ranked unit for good reason.

Schulz was also complimentary.

“I want to credit USC’s defense. They’re a very good defense,” he said. “They knew what they were doing and they were executing.”

Utah’s turnovers, though, were obviously troublesome to the Utes.

“It seemed liked they were one after another after another and there was four and that’s tough to overcome,” Whittingham said. “When you’re playing good people, which you do in this conference every single week, it kills you — unless you’re mismatched and you’ve got a far superior physically football team then you can overcome some of that stuff.

“But that’s not the case in this league. We’re not far superior physically than anybody in this conference,” he continued. “We’re just in there slugging away.”

It’s tough sledding if Whittingham’s inclinations are correct.

“This conference has gotten so much better over the last three years and I believe we’ve gotten better,” he said. “Maybe the conference as a whole has gotten better, relatively speaking, than maybe we have.”

Whatever the case may be, the Utes are determined to keep on working. They return to action Nov. 9 at home against Arizona State. Then comes a road trip to No. 2 Oregon.

“This group never quits. They fought until the bitter end. These guys have a great deal of character, a great deal of competitiveness, and I’m proud of them for that,” Whittingham said, “There’s nobody in that locker room that threw in the towel at any point. I don’t expect that to ever happen with this football team because they’re a tough group of guys.”

Schulz also considers the bye week a good opportunity for the Utes to work on a lot of things.

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