Looking to get back on track after losing three in a row, Utah was back in action against the Ducks of Oregon. The Utes were on defense first, but couldn't contain the Ducks as they went on an 11-play drive for 75 yards that resulted in a touchdown. From then on, Utah never got closer than four points and lost in Eugene 41-20.
Where do we start with all the things that went wrong for the Utes' offense? Utah only rushed for 91 yards, making it the first time since 2015 that the Utes ran for such few yards on the ground. The Utes had four trips in the red zone and could only muster 13 points. Add a third-down conversion rate of 4/14, and you can see how they fell short. If there were any positives, Tyler Huntley did throw for almost 300 yards and two touchdowns, but he had to throw over 40 passes with lackluster protection. Darren Carrington II did have a successful game against his former team with nine catches for 130 yards, but was held without a touchdown.
If the Utah defense only had to protect against the pass, it would have been in good shape; 69 yards was all the Ducks accounted for through the air. But the rushing attack for Oregon was lethal, and Utah had no answers. On 49 carries, Oregon ran for 347 yards. Furthermore, three players for the Ducks had more than 70 yards rushing each. Once again, the Utes had little effect when stopping offensive drives, this time allowing three drives of 75 yards or more. It's not the defense we have seen through the years, and it seems like this is the defense that we will see for the rest of the season.
The special teams for Utah was a mixed bag. Mitch Wishnowsky continued to look sharp, keeping all of his punts within the opponents' 20-yard line. Matt Gay's 43-yard miss was the only one of the night. He connected on two others. Not much continues to happen from the return game. Boobie Hobbs can't seem to get a running lane on punt returns. Demari Simpkins had a 30-yard kick return, but nothing to write home about. More explosion needs to happen from this team to make a bigger impact with the offense and defense struggling.
Troy Taylor and Kyle Whittingham, among others, can't seem to figure out how to solve the red zone woes. On top of that, there were too many short drives where the offense couldn't stay on the field for more than a hot minute. At the end of the game, the last three drives ended in three straight turnovers on downs. The up-tempo Ute offense has not meshed well with the Whittingham defense, especially since both sides of the football are broken, battered and beaten.
The Utes needed this game against Oregon to stay afloat for a bowl game. Next, UCLA comes to town. Even though they are not ranked, the Bruins will be a tough opponent on Friday with a short week for the Utes. Hopefully the slide will end this next week.
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.