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Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley, center, prepares to lead the Utes onto to the field prior to game against Arizona State at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017.
I think it helps the receivers knowing that the quarterback believes in us, that he thinks we can do it too. Now we just have to go out there and perform. —Utah WR Samson Nacua

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley gathered his receivers together and told them that if the offensive identity started with them and the passing game would improve.

“As a total offense, we’ve got to get on board with our quarterback," said senior receiver Darren Carrington II. "And just seeing how much he cared, it made me care a little bit more. It should make our whole offense care a little bit more. ...He doesn’t want to have another game like that ever, ever again."

Carrington said he’s never seen the intensely competitive but always grinning sophomore quarterback as upset as he was after Utah’s 30-10 loss to Arizona State.

But Huntley’s despondency over the loss, especially after his own performance, doesn’t concern the veteran wide receiver. In fact, it inspires him.

“That just goes to show how much he cares about us as a team,” Carrington said. “And about us winning…and just his play personally.”

When asked what he could do as an older, more experienced player to encourage or console Huntley, who started the Arizona State game still nursing a shoulder injury sustained in Utah’s first Pac-12 game against Arizona, Carrington said that wasn’t necessary.

“You see how he (conducts) himself, so we don’t really have to do that,” Carrington said. “Nobody really had to tell Tyler to turn the page. Tyler throws a pick, and he's still going to be out there encouraging us the next play.”

Huntley said he’s never played as poorly as he did last Saturday and said the biggest issue was that small miscues that snowballed into an avalanche of mistakes.

“I’d say I’ve never had a game like that,” he said. “I learned from it. I plan on never having a game like that again.”

During Monday’s press conference, he repeatedly took the blame for the team’s offensive miscommunications.

“I gotta play better,” he said. “I gotta be able to lead this team in a better way. It was miscommunications. We just weren’t on the same page.”

Redshirt freshman Samson Nacua said he loved the fact that Huntley came into the locker room and addressed the receivers specifically.

“I think it helps the receivers knowing that the quarterback believes in us, that he thinks we can do it too,” he said. “Now we just have to go out there and perform.”

His teammates said Huntley may be young, but he’s a great leader.

“He’s funny, and he knows how to get along with everyone,” Nacua said. “He knows when it’s time to have fun, and when it’s time to shut up and play and lock in.” Nacua, who is a fun-loving, affable player as well, said the team’s energy is much more “all business” as they diagnose and correct problems in an attempt to end their losing streak against Oregon.

“Everyone knows we need to focus,” he said. “It’s go time.”

Wide receivers coach Guy Holliday was standing near Huntley when he gathered the receivers for the pep talk.

“Tyler brings passion,” Holliday said. “He has an ‘it’ factor where he really believes that he’s the best player on the field. You know, it hurts him sometimes because that’s maybe how he got hurt.” His passion means that he puts the team’s success ahead of even his own safety, and that may make injuries more likely, but it also inspires affection and loyalty amongst his teammates.

“Players want to play with players who put it on the line,” Holliday said. “Your quarterback is always your leader. You know if you look at any of the great teams, whether it was Tom Brady at New England or Joe Montana at the 49ers…Peyton Manning with Indianapolis. That’s the guy. No matter who else steps up, no matter who else speaks up, the quarterback is, for the offense, is going to be the guy.”

He admits that Huntley’s absence made keeping any offensive rhythm or identity more difficult, but he also praised Troy Williams for stepping in the way he did.

“Him not being out there is tough,” he said. “Anytime you have to turn to your number two, it’s tough. And Troy won nine games last year — and he’s a great competitor — but it’s a different style.”