We’re 4-4, a little bit of a crossroads right now. We still have a lot of football left. —Utah coach Kyle Whittingham
EUGENE, Ore. — Utah defensive end Kylie Fitts didn’t mince any words following Saturday’s 41-20 loss to Oregon at Autzen Stadium. The Utes came up short, way short, in the battle between teams on three-game losing streaks.
“Me, honestly, I’m embarrassed,” Fitts said while fighting back tears. “I’m not used to this.”
In falling to sole possession of last place in the Pac-12 South, Utah (4-4, 1-4) had trouble running the ball and defending it. Oregon finished with 379 yards rushing. The Utes, meanwhile, had just 3 yards at halftime and 91 by game’s end.
“It’s tough. If you’re not running the football, it makes everything difficult,” said offensive coordinator Troy Taylor. “We got a little bit going in the second half. We didn’t completely give up on it. We had some decent runs.”
It failed to ignite change, however, in a game where Utah never held a lead. The Utes’ fourth straight loss proved to be downright frustrating.
“The perimeter run game in particular, our inability to stop the perimeter run game, was the difference in this football game,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.
The Ducks averaged 7.1 yards per carry, while the Utes managed just 3.0.
Oregon (5-4, 2-4) had two runners top 100 yards rushing — Royce Freeman (139) and Tony Brooks-James (105).
Fitts said the defense lost its edges, was beaten sideline-to-sideline and couldn’t make plays.
As such, the Utes went winless in October. They face UCLA, Washington State, Washington and Colorado in the coming month, needing at least two wins to become bowl eligible for the fourth straight year.
“We’re 4-4, a little bit of a crossroads right now,” Whittingham said. “We still have a lot of football left.”
And Whittingham insists there’s still good reason for the Utes to be motivated.
“I love our senior class. They’re great leaders. I know we are 4-4 and things aren’t how we wanted them to be,” he said. “But those guys have shown great leadership all the way through. So I appreciate the senior class. The goal is to get them to a bowl game.”
Fitts, who is one of the seniors, vows the Utes will not let the remainder of the season spiral down.
“We’re going to keep fighting and we’re just going to come back Monday and get ready for UCLA,” Fitts said.
The whole defense, he acknowledged, has got to be better than it was at Oregon.
Quarterback Tyler Huntley and wide receiver Darren Carrington II also expressed disappointment and the need for improvement.
“We came up short we lost,” Huntley said. “It’s hard, but we’ve just got to learn from everything that we’ve been doing wrong. We’ve just got to learn from them. That’s the only thing we can do.”
Carrington, who transferred to Utah from Oregon over the summer, had a game-high nine receptions in his return to Eugene. Although there were aspects over the homecoming he said he enjoyed, his primary focus after the game was on getting problems fixed with his current team — and quick.
“We’ve got to come out and play every play,” said Carrington, who noted there was a lack of execution, being together and caring.
Huntley completed 25 of 43 throws for 293 yards and two touchdowns in his second game back from injury. Oregon’s defense broke up seven passes, recorded four sacks and three quarterback hurries.
Other players joined Fitts in noting they, too, were embarrassed by the team’s performance.
EXTRA POINTS: UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen injured a finger in the Bruins' 44-23 loss at Washington Saturday. His status for Friday's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium is uncertain. Utah converted on just 4 of 14 third-down situations. The Utes were 1 of 4 on fourth down. Zack Moss had a team-high 53 yards rushing. Huntley finished with 46. Matt Gay made field goals from 23 and 34 yards out. However, he missed a 43-yard attempt. Safety Chase Hansen led the Utes with 11 tackles. Defensive end Kylie Fitts and linebacker Sunia Tauteoli had sacks. Safety Marquise Blair made 10 stops, including two tackles for loss. Defensive lineman Leki Fotu recovered a fumble. The Utes were not credited with a forced fumble, a pass breakup or any quarterback hurries.