Pass the tissues.
With a loss to Arizona at Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday night, this season's Utah football team is indeed the program's worst since 2002, when a 5-6 season ended Ron McBride's Ute coaching career.
Utah fell 34-24 against Arizona, falling to 4-7 overall. With the defeat, the Utes cannot go bowling for the first time since that 2002 season.
OFFENSE: Travis Wilson (28-40, 311 yards, 2 touchdowns) was as solid as he’s been this season. But from bypassing open receivers to overthrowing others on a second flea-flicker play, he also showed freshman uncertainty that hasn’t always been becoming of the expectations of the highly touted recruit. His inexperience proved costly in the fourth quarter when the offense stagnated. It was low-lighted with a second flea-flicker play and when he didn’t lead the offense to requisite third-down conversions — or on a crucial fourth-down play. A Wilson pass to Kenneth Scott came up mere feet short of a first down at Utah's own 30 with 3:29 left and down one score. Young offensive coordinator Brian Johnson learned his lesson from earlier this season, when he provided just 38 total carries in three losses to star running back John White IV, who set a new school mark for single-season rushing yards last season. White gained 112 yards on 27 carries Saturday night. Still, White has received just 171 carries this season, compared to 316 in his big 2011 season.
The Utes may have totaled 449 yards and committed just one turnover and three penalties. However, reasons are clear why this offense ranks just 84th in the nation in scoring. GRADE: C+.
DEFENSE: Ka’Deem Carey (26 carries, 204 yards, 1 touchdown) proved to be a nightmare for the black-helmeted Utes. Saturday evening marked Carey's second-highest rushing total of the season — and the other was against Colorado, whose scoring defense ranks 118th in the nation. He was unanswerable all evening. Senior Matt Scott (12-of-27, 160 yards) wasn't great, but with Carey behind him, it didn't matter — and his one touchdown toss, a go-ahead throw underneath to Austin Hill (six receptions, 96 yards) proved to be the difference for Arizona. And he was the signal-caller for an offense that scored 17 points in the final quarter, when Utah was simply out-executed and outworked when it most mattered.
It was against the Utes that this fall’s Wildcats were able to distinguish themselves in one sense, becoming the first in the Arizona program to have a 3,000-yard passer (Scott), 1,000-yard rusher (Carey) and 1,000-yard receiver (Hill) all in the same season. GRADE: C-.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Mr. Spectacular, Reggie Dunn, received two kick-return opportunities Saturday night, totalling 25 yards. Coleman Petersen, who's had a shaky career — he made just 23 of 35 field goals in 2011 and 2012 — and just 5-10 this season — made his one field-goal attempt on Senior Night. Punter Sean Sellwood received two opportunities in what was also his final home game, totalling 83 yards. Nothing groundbreaking from this group, but it wasn't terrible. GRADE: B.
OVERALL: The loss marks a disappointing occasion for the Utah football program. As has been the case against most conference opponents this fall, Arizona was just a litle bit better, and inexperience in key positions proved to be the Utes' downfall.
Despite the immense hype surrounding the Utes' Pac-12 membership the past two seasons, it's proven to be a difficult road. Utah made it to a bowl game last year after a difficult season, but in an improved league — and with youthful starters when Utah needed to perform like veterans — the Utes didn't qualify for a bowl and won't be going anywhere this winter. GRADE: C.
Rhett Wilkinson studies interesting stuff at Utah State University and is the co-founder of Aggie BluePrint, USU's first student magazine. Previously a Deseret News intern, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @wilklogan
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