With almost each passing week, the outlook for the University of Utah football team seems to get grimmer and grimmer, and the losses get bigger and bigger.
The defense - once the pride of the team - has fallen apart in recent weeks. The offense continues to sputter. So does the Quarterback Shuffle. With two games remaining, the Utes' enthusiasm seems to be waning.On Saturday night the Utes lost to San Diego State 66-14. A week earlier they lost to Air Force 52-21. All told, two average football teams produced a combined 118 points and nearly 1,000 yards against Utah on consecutive weekends.
"This is a real sad day for Utah football," said Utah Coach Ron McBride following the loss in San Diego. "This is the worst I've ever been beaten by any team in all my years of coaching."
Not since 1968 had the Aztecs scored so many points, and this season are no better than a 3-4 team.
"The first half was the best we've played since we've (the coaching staff) been here," said Aztec Coach Al Luginbill.
"The thing that bothers me the most is that we lost a little bit of our will to fight on both sides of the ball," said McBride. "Our team came apart at the seams. We've got some problems that need to be solved."
But even McBride admits that there isn't much he can do this late in the season.
The Utes, 3-6 overall, 1-5 in conference play, will play two more good offensive teams when they meet New Mexico Saturday in Albuquerque and BYU at home the following week.
"I said before the (Aztec) game that it would be interesting to see how we bounced back from the Air Force game," said McBride. "It was a test. Obviously, we didn't respond."
Instead, the Utes made San Diego State look like the San Francisco 49ers. The Aztecs, the worst defensive team in the country - a defense that had intercepted just one pass all season - held Utah to 11 first downs, 200 yards, 14 points and intercepted two passes. Utah ran just 55 offensive plays, compared to the Aztecs' 81.
Late Friday night the Utes made yet another quarterback change, this time starting Jason Woods over Mike Richmond, but the results were the same. Woods, making his fifth start of the year, completed 10 of 25 passes for 147 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and was sacked four times. The Utes netted 53 yards rushing.
Since then, the defense has declined. The decline has coincided with injuries to linebacker Anthony Davis. Through the first five games of the season he had 56 tackles and eight tackles for loss. In the four games since then, he has made just seven tackles and no tackles for loss, having missed all or most of each game because of injuries.
"He is a real spark for our defense," says McBride. "He can really pick the guys up. What he needs now is a full week of reps in practice. He hasn't had that since before the Colorado State (one month ago). Until then he was getting sharper each week."
To complicate matters against the Aztecs, the Utes were forced to play without linebacker Preston Christensen (knee injury) and defensive end Jimmy Bellamy (chicken pox), as well as Davis, who saw only limited action (two tackles).