LOS ANGELES — Things just got a lot tougher for the Utah Utes and their plans to go bowling. Saturday’s 19-3 loss at USC raised the degree of difficulty by a smidgen or two, or more.
At 4-4 overall, the Utes need two wins in their final four games to become bowl eligible. After a bye week, they face back-to-back games against Pac-12 powers — Arizona State at home and Oregon on the road. Then comes a trip to Washington State and the regular season finale against Colorado at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us again,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “It’s week after week after week.”
Bye weeks, he joked, aren’t as tough. This one, though, will be an important one for the Utes with the Sun Devils and Ducks up next on the schedule.
“We better have some revelations on the bye week, huh? We better get our act together,” Whittingham said, “because, yeah, it doesn’t get any easier and I say it every week. Every week it’s just like an onslaught, just one after another after another. That’s the life in the Pac-12. That’s how it is.”
Whittingham added that the conference and the Utes have gotten better over the past three years.
In the midst of the challenges, senior captain Trevor Reilly said the team is determined to get a main goal accomplished.
“We want to make it to a bowl game. So we’ve got to win at least two out of four. Obviously we want to win all four,” Reilly said. “So we’ve got a bye week and hopefully we’ll be ready to go for Arizona State.”
WEDDLE RETURNS: Former Utah All-American Eric Weddle made his annual visit to see the Utes play. The all-pro safety from the San Diego Chargers arrived at the team hotel Friday night and spent Saturday morning hanging out with the players and coaches prior to joining them on the sideline for the game.
“It’s just nice to be back,” said Weddle, who noted that even though a lot of the kids don’t know him he wanted to share how much he loved and appreciated them for carrying on what has been built in the program.
Weddle ate breakfast with the team, joined them on the pregame walk, and had a chance to speak to the squad. He even got in an early workout with Whittingham.
SHORT-HANDED VICTORS: USC suited just 52 scholarship players and used just three substitutes on defense because of mounting injuries. Ten walk-ons saw action in the game.
“Great job by the assistant coaches, pulling together and fighting through adversity,” said USC coach Ed Orgeron. “ ... It’s a happy locker room and I’m happy for them. Outstanding performance.”
EXTRA POINTS: Announced attendance was 64,715. ... A moment of silence was held before the game for USC alum Bill Sharman, who passed away Friday. Sharman coached the Utah Stars to the 1971 ABA championship. ... Former NFL and USC standout Anthony Munoz led the Trojans out on the field. ... USC will invest $70 million over the next 10 years to “improve the fan experience” at the Coliseum. Plans call for an investment of $100 million by 2054. ... Utah kicker Andy Phillips made one field goal (42 yards) and missed one (32 yards), leaving the freshman at 13 for 16 on the season. Phillips had made the first 11 field goals he attempted before missing two last week at Arizona.
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