SALT LAKE CITY — So far, the Pac-12 hasn't exactly rolled out the red carpet for the Utah Utes. They've clobbered them with it.
The old guard is taking it to the newcomers. The latest blow was a 35-14 loss to Arizona State Saturday afternoon at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham noted that some good things were happening, but then "the wheels came off and (we) started turning the ball over."
For the second consecutive game, the Utes had five turnovers. Three in the second half eventually turned into touchdowns for the Sun Devils.
At 2-3 overall and 0-3 in Pac-12 play, Utah is pretty much out of conference championship game contention. The deficit, Whittingham noted, is most likely insurmountable.
Perhaps it's a good thing, then, that the Utes' next game is a non-conference affair Saturday against Pittsburgh (3-3) at Heinz Field. Whittingham, however, thinks the level of competition and the challenge may be comparable to the past two weeks for Utah.
"So we've got to hang together. We've got to coach better, without a doubt we've got to coach better," Whittingham said. "We've got to quit turning the ball over and we've got to start finding ways to win."
Besides Pitt, the Utes will face California, Oregon State, Arizona, UCLA, Washington State and Colorado down the stretch — needing to prevail in five of them to secure a ninth consecutive winning regular season.
"We're going to look at it as a new season" said quarterback Jon Hays, who completed 18-of-30 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown in his first career start. He was intercepted three times in his first full game since replacing injured starter Jordan Wynn.
An 0-3 start in the program's inaugural Pac-12 campaign isn't sitting well with the Utes.
"No, it's not," said linebacker Trevor Reilly, who made three tackles-for-loss against Arizona State. ". . . There's not much to say, except we've got to play harder."
Topping the things-to-do list is fixing Utah's second-half woes in conference play.
The Utes have trailed 10-7 at halftime in all three of their Pac-12 games. The third and fourth quarters, however, have been a much different story. They've been outscored by a combined 59-21 over losses to USC, Washington and Arizona State.
EXTRA POINTS: Utah is off to an 0-3 conference start for the first time since 2002 . . . Hays, tight end Jake Murphy, wide receiver Kenneth Scott and defensive back Reggie Topps made their first career starts against ASU . . . John White led the Utes with a game-high 85 yards rushing . . . Tight end Dallin Rogers topped Utah with five receptions . . . Safety Eric Rowe had a career-high 10 tackles . . . Linebacker Chaz Walker made nine stops . .. . The Utes held the Sun Devils to 74 yards on the ground and an average of just 1.9 yards per rush.
Utes on the air
Utah (2-3) at Pittsburgh (3-3)
Saturday, 10 a.m. (MT)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @DirkFacer
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company