Looking to win their first Pac-12 victory at home, the Utes took on the Arizona State Sun Devils Saturday afternoon. Quarterback Tyler Huntley came back from injury, but was not effective with four interceptions in the contest. Arizona State's backfield ran all over the yard and finished with 205 rushing yards to Utah's 110 yards. The 30-10 defeat for Utah was its worst loss of the season, and the Utes still have not won a home game in Pac-12 play this season.
When your head coach says that your offense has "no real identity right now," his words speak for themself. Huntley's performance of four interceptions was not a welcome comeback, but neither was the running game that only amassed 110 yards. The first-half sequence on offense went interception, punt, punt, punt and another interception. Unfortunately, the second half wasn't much better with two interceptions and two punts.
The Utah defense had 86 tackles. That's right, 86! Two players had 10 tackles each and two players had eight tackles each. The problem? The secondary was making most of the tackles as the Sun Devils ran through the interior and out into daylight. Another area of concern was the long, sustained drives with another 94-yard drive for a touchdown. This is becoming a constant habit of a defense that seems beat-up and worn down, allowing extended drives.
Coach Kyle Whittingham was happy about one thing against Arizona State and that was his punter. Mitch Wishnowsky was busy with five punts for 241 yards, averaging 48.2 yards per swing of his leg. Add Matt Gay's 53-yard field goal, and the special teams unit didn't compare with the abysmal offense and defense. The return game, however, is a non-factor and could use a jump-start.
Few can debate that the coaching was stellar on this day. Troy Taylor's offense amounted to less than 275 yards with constant turnovers and failed drives. The debate will only heighten, if the Utes continue to lose, that a new offensive coordinator is on the horizon. But with the defense also performing below-average, the whispers may become more clear that Whittingham is not the right man for the job to win Utah's first Pac-12 title. Either way, there's plenty to do on the offensive and defensive sides for the Utes. Let's see if the coaches are up to the task.
Utah was looking to show that the last few weeks were not a fluke against two top-25 teams when it only lost by a total of four points. However, the mental and physical fatigue only festered the problem that the Utes might not actually be the team that people were hoping for. They will look to redeem themselves next week on the road against the Oregon Ducks.
Shane Reinhard is a graduate of Weber State University and a teacher and coach at St. Joseph Catholic High School in Ogden, Utah. Email: [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @hoopsters12.