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Brad Rock: Utes looking no closer than a century ago to beating USC

Published: Saturday, Oct. 26 2013 8:25 p.m. MDT

Utah Utes running back Lucky Radley (44) evades tacklers as the University of Utah plays USC in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Utes running back Lucky Radley (44) evades tacklers as the University of Utah plays USC in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

LOS ANGELES — No, Travis Wilson’s hand is not all better. Alex Smith is not walking through that door. Adam Schulz isn’t even the next Jon Hays yet. Utah still isn’t ready for an every-week schedule of big opponents. The offensive line leaks.

Did we miss anything?

“The positive is the defense played very well,” coach Kyle Whittingham wryly noted after Saturday’s 19-3 loss to USC. “If you’re looking for another positive, our defense played very well.”

If you’re looking for any other happiness, call Disneyland.

Right now the Utes are a low-end team in a high-end operation.

Utah co-offensive coordinator Brian Johnson as the University of Utah prepares to play USC Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah co-offensive coordinator Brian Johnson as the University of Utah prepares to play USC Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

“We’ve got really no throw game right now,” Whittingham continued. “The run game wasn’t a whole lot better.”

Two weeks ago the Utes shocked the country by beating No. 5 Stanford. Whatever that meant is quickly fading. Mostly it means Utah has some of the components of big-conference football. And it’s missing some.

It doesn’t have a high-level quarterback anymore. One is wearing a glove and a sheepish look after another injury-and-decision-hampered performance. Wilson threw two more interceptions on Saturday. His total for the year has equaled his touchdown passes (14). A sprained index finger has sidetracked his progress in what might have been a fine sophomore season.

The other QB has a bigger arm than Hays — who came on in 2011 to lead Utah to a bowl game — but so far no results. Adam Schulz has been unable in two games to reclaim games after the Utes fell behind.

Utah Utes quarterback Travis Wilson (7) warms up with a glove on his hand that he injured last week against Stanford as the University of Utah prepares to play USC Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Utes quarterback Travis Wilson (7) warms up with a glove on his hand that he injured last week against Stanford as the University of Utah prepares to play USC Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Whittingham exchanged quarterbacks liberally, hoping to find the hot hand.

Meanwhile, Utah came home after Saturday’s demoralizing loss knowing that as impressive as its win was over Stanford, beating the Trojans would have been nearly as significant. Not that USC is up to its usual standard (5-3). But a win would have proven the Utes can beat good programs on the road.

Wilson was fine when he carried the ball. It was his 42 yards rushing that kept Utah moving at all. But he never got going with his passes.

The Magic Kingdom isn’t far from the Los Angeles Coliseum, but this was no fairy tale for the Utes. The last time they won at USC was in 1916. It might take another 97 years to beat the Trojans at their home.

Asked if he was “stunned” by the loss to a reeling USC, Whittingham said, “Not stunned. Disappointed, discouraged a little bit by the things we’ve seen that are going backward on us. But it’s the coach’s job to figure it out.”

Utah Utes wide receiver Geoff Norwood (16) is tackled by the face mask by USC Trojans linebacker Anthony Sarao (56) as the University of Utah plays USC in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Utes wide receiver Geoff Norwood (16) is tackled by the face mask by USC Trojans linebacker Anthony Sarao (56) as the University of Utah plays USC in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Although the Utes have a scant history with USC, if ever there was a time for them to beat the Trojans, this would have been it, for a lot of reasons — among them being the law of averages.

Utah’s 1916 win was a 27-12 decision. Next year, though, USC came to Salt Lake and beat Utah 51-0. The Utes haven't won a regular-season game against the Trojans since, though they did beat them in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl.

The litany of problems associated with USC is both long and sordid, starting with the scholarship limitations that will last through next year. Thank you Reggie Bush and Pete Carroll, both in even more profitable ventures than they were in college.

The big news has been the September firing of coach Lane Kiffin after a 62-41 loss to Arizona State. Kiffin was replaced by interim head coach Ed Orgeron, who narrowly beat Arizona and lost to Notre Dame.

Former Utah player, and current San Diego Charger, Eric Weddle watches the game from the sidelines as the University of Utah plays USC in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Former Utah player, and current San Diego Charger, Eric Weddle watches the game from the sidelines as the University of Utah plays USC in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

But nothing was a bigger worry than injuries. It’s true the Utes have had more than their share of takedowns, including starters such as Jake Murphy, Brian Blechen, Kenneth Scott and, last week, Wilson, whose hand has received nearly as much publicity as O.J. Simpson’s famous gloved hand in 1994.

Yet Utah’s injury problems were average compared to USC, which came into the game looking like extras in “The Walking Dead.” The Trojans used only 48 scholarship players against Notre Dame last week. Chief among the missing, All-America receiver Marqise Lee, who didn’t play on Saturday either.

Among other no-shows were tailback Justin Davis, the team’s second-leading rusher, starting tight end Randall Telfer, and backups Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick and Xavier Grimble. Starting linebacker Lamar Dawson, running back Taylor Ross and offensive lineman Jordan Simmons have all been felled by season-ending injuries they sustained in practice.

Utah Utes quarterback Travis Wilson (7) runs for a first down as the University of Utah plays USC in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Utes quarterback Travis Wilson (7) runs for a first down as the University of Utah plays USC in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Seems the Trojans can’t stay off the stretcher even when playing against themselves.

All of which lent an air of vulnerability to the Men of Troy.

But it was Utah they were playing.

And it has been 97 years.

Email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: @therockmonster; Blog: Rockmonster Unplugged

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