SALT LAKE CITY — Utah fought hard but ultimately came up short in its first Pac-12 contest of the year Saturday night. The Utes lost to Oregon State, 51-48.
Here's how the Utes graded:
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The Ute offense struggled early — gaining just 12 yards on nine plays for the entire first quarter. Three consecutive three-and-outs to start the game contributed heavily to the Beavers building an early lead.
The Ute offense found its groove in the second quarter, however, and cut the Beaver lead to 20-10 at the half. Wilson settled down and finished the half with 11-16 passing for 147 yards and a touchdown.
Utah’s offense proved productive for the rest of the game, but was done in by three Travis Wilson interceptions in the second half, which played huge in the final outcome. Wilson made some poor decisions — throwing some passes late and relying too heavily on his pre-snaps reads.
The running game sputtered big time out of the gate, but did prove productive in the second half. James Poole carried the ball 25 times for 117 yards and caught seven passes for another 70 yards, while Kelvin York and Karl Williams stayed on the sidelines. It was Wilson, however, who did the most damage on the ground with 12 rushes for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
To have 48 points and more than 500 yards of total offense over the final three quarters is simply an outstanding effort, but it wasn't enough.
The first half was defined by a lack of a pass rush from the Ute front and Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion picking apart the secondary. Utah’s coverage wasn’t necessarily bad, but Mannion proved to be that good. He finished the half with 15-24 passing for 219 yards and two touchdowns.
The defense, like the offense, improved its play after the first quarter, but was consistently put in bad positions by offensive turnovers. Big plays were also a problem — most notably a 55-yard touchdown pass from Mannion to Brandin Cooks.
Despite yielding big plays, the front seven proved stout against the Beaver ground attack. Starting running back Storm Woods was only able to muster 34 yards on 12 carries before leaving the game with an injury.
Ultimately, the defense yielded too many third-and-long conversions and a critical fourth-and-long on Oregon State's game-winning scoring drive.
No real advantage was gained by either team on special teams. Utah had its share of productive returns and generally showed well on punt and kick coverage. Andy Phillips made good on his two field goal attempts from 27 and 41 yards, respectively.
Utah looked unprepared and sluggish out of the gate, but key adjustments were made after enduring Oregon State's initial blow. The defense was able to get much better pressure on the quarterback late while offensive coaches called the game to Wilson's strengths.
Overall Utah again proved to be superb in making game-time adjustments, but it wasn't enough to overcome an extremely sluggish start and some untimely turnovers.
Wins in the Pac-12 aren't easy to come by and this was a game the Utes couldn't afford to lose. Yes, Oregon State is a good team, but it was a squad Utah needs to beat at home if it hopes to be a legitimate conference contender. That ultimately didn't happen, however.