SALT LAKE CITY — As he glanced at the scoreboard last Saturday at Oregon State, several thoughts crossed Utah coach Kyle Whittingham’s mind. They included things like, “It can’t be” and “How the heck can it be?”
It was the fourth quarter and the statistics on the board showed that the Utes were doing a real good job against Oregon State’s offense. Even so, the only numbers on the board that really mattered didn’t reflect it. The Beavers led 21-7.
Whittingham brought it up when asked if this was his most difficult season as Utah’s head coach. The Utes are off to their poorest start (2-5) and first four-game skid in his eight-year tenure at the helm.
“It’s right up there. I’ll tell you at the end. We’ve got a lot of football left,” Whittingham said. “But it’s been very frustrating.”
The Utes, he added, will keep working through it. They face California on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
LEADERSHIP APLENTY: Whittingham dismissed any notion that this year’s team has a shortage of leaders.
“I don’t sense any lack of leadership at all. That has not been an issue,” Whittingham said. “We’ve got guys who make sure things are done right in practice (and) make sure everybody is doing the right things in the weight room. So I haven’t seen that at all.”
GETTING COMFY: Quarterback Travis Wilson threw his first touchdown pass as Utah’s starter when he connected on an 18-yard scoring strike to Jake Murphy last Saturday at Oregon State.
“It was great. It really boosted my confidence,” Wilson said of the throw. “It was great to have that feeling, but I have to be able to make a lot more of those than I did last Saturday.”
Wilson noted that he’s settling into the role following two starts.
“After getting this playing time I feel really comfortable, definitely, in the pocket as well,” Wilson said. “I just need to keep on playing with confidence and just make sure everyone around me knows that, too.”
MATCH GAME: Utah’s second consecutive 0-4 start in Pac-12 play has prompted questions from the media about how the Utes stack up in their new surroundings.
“I think we can definitely match them position for position,” Wilson said. “We’re playing hard. We’re having good weeks of practice. For some reason, it just hasn’t really been working out.”
Even so, Wilson doesn’t think the Utes are being outmanned and is confident things will improve.
Safety Eric Rowe also believes Utah can compete.
“It just comes down to the mental part of the game — to film study, to aligning right and using the right technique,” he said. “We can match up with like USC and Cal and Oregon State and Oregon, it just comes down to the mental part of the game.”
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