Utah Utes football: Work to do in all phases

Published: Saturday, Oct. 10 2015 3:29 a.m. MDT

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Utah's 24-14 victory over San Jose State wasn't all that pretty. In fact, at times, it was downright ugly.

Even so, it wasn't bad enough to derail the Utes from their main objective. They did what had to be done to extend the nation's longest active win streak to 16 games.

"We don't pay a lot of attention to that. Each year is a new year," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said after his team improved to 2-0 on the season.

"We're just concerned about getting a win one week at a time. We've got to get a lot better between now and next Saturday if we want to even have a chance against the University of Oregon."

The Utes' final tune-up before facing the Ducks at Autzen Stadium in Eugene exposed some deficiencies on offense, defense and special teams.

"We've just got to keep working. That's all I can say," Whittingham said. "We're miles away from having all the answers and having our football team right where we want it. We've got a lot of work to do."

On offense, there were two fumbles and a missed opportunity to score a touchdown from 1 yard out. The latter ended with an errant fourth-down pass from running back Matt Asiata to a wide-open Terrance Cain in the end zone.

The turnovers, though, were foremost on Whittingham's mind in his postgame press conference.

"If we don't turn the ball over in the first half twice I think it might be 21-0. But we turned it over," he said. "(San Jose State) did a great job creating the fumbles. We didn't do a good job with our ball security and that's what kept it close."

The score was tied at 7-7 through three quarters of play.

Defensively, Whittingham wasn't pleased with how the Utes defend the deep ball. San Jose State receiver Kevin Jurovich had eight catches for 146 yards, while teammate Marquis Avery made seven receptions including a 46-yarder.

"The best pass defense is a great pass rush," Whittingham said. "So it's not all on the corners."

Takeaways, a lack thereof, is another concern. The lone turnover against San Jose State was an interception by linebacker Mike Wright on the final play of the game.

"We're not creating takeaways on defense," Whittingham said. "We have two takeaways in two football games."

And it's been costly.

Whittingham said the drought has prevented the offense from getting short fields to work from.

On the special teams front, Utah kicker Ben Vroman had a miserable outing. He missed all three field goals he attempted and was eventually replaced by backup Joe Phillips, who made two PATs and a 25-yard field goal to ice the game with 13 seconds remaining.

"I felt three opportunities was enough. So we gave Joe a shot. He came through and did a nice job," said Whittingham, who declined to say if the switch will become permanent. "We'll have to work it out in practice, but Joe did a nice job tonight. We'll just see how things shake out this week in practice."

While there were a lot of shortcomings in the game, Utah did have its share of successes as well.

The offense racked up 499 yards and the defense held San Jose to 22 yards rushing on 22 carries. The Utes also stopped the Spartans on 3-of-12 third-down situations. Penalties, however, were a problem with San Jose State picking up seven first downs on Utah infractions.

"Every phase (offense, defense and special teams) has things to address," Whittingham said. "I don't know if I'll ever sit here and say that there's not something we need to work on in any of the three phases. It's all constantly evolving."

EXTRA POINTS: Matt Asiata led the Utes with 94 yards rushing ... Jereme Brooks and David Reed each had five receptions ... Luke Matthews netted 31 yards on two punt returns ... Safety Joe Dale topped the team with 5.5 tackles ... Defensive end Koa Misi had 4.5 stops in his season debut ... Cornerback R.J. Stanford finished with two pass breakups and linebacker Mike Wright intercepted a pass ... Defensive end Christian Cox recorded Utah's only sack ... The Utes made six tackles for loss ... Right guard Tevita Stevens made his first career start.

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com

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