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October 21, 2012

Utes self destruct

Kyle Whittingham's Utah football team dropped to 2-4 on the season, and 0-4 in Pac-12 play Saturday in a loss to No. 8 ranked Oregon State.

At first glance, the No. 8 ranking and just a 14 point loss doesn't seem so bad, but for the Utes, it's heartbreaking.

Knowing that they had every opportunity to right their quickly ailing season, and squandered each one will haunt them perhaps more than any other loss this season.

That's saying a lot, considering the chances they had versus USC at home in early October in a game that would also have meant a lot, perhaps even altering the course of their season with a win.

Utah was just 3-16 in third down conversions on the night, coughed up the ball four times, resulting in 14 Oregon State points. Utah also committed seven penalties for 69 yards.

Untimely penalties and costly penalties which stalled Ute drives, and extended Oregon State drives proved pivotal in the loss, along with multiple drops by Ute receivers that were every bit as untimely and costly as the penalties.

More painful was the fact that Utah held the high-powered Oregon State offense to just 227 total yards. Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz passed for 332 yards and 3 TDs last week in his first collegiate start, but was held to just 174 yards on 16-26 passing Saturday in Corvallis. Oregon State is now 7-0, something it hasn't achieved since 1907, setting up a late November showdown with in-state rival Oregon for Pac-12 North supremacy.

The Ute defense also held Oregon State to just 53 yards on the ground, to no avail, making the loss all the more frustrating.

Taking nothing away from Mike Reilly's Oregon State squad, the night was more about Utah's mistakes and mishaps, heaping frustration onto an already frustrated Utah team that badly needed a win in order to right the ship.

On the other side of the ball, quarterback Travis Wilson passed for 172 yards on 15-28 passing and two interceptions. Wilson's numbers suffered from several good balls that were dropped by his receivers, including two that were sure scores, dramatically changing the direction of the game, despite Ute turnovers.

Ute running backs John White and Kelvin York provided a nice one-two punch Saturday, as White rushed for 68 yards on 20 carries while the more efficient York rushed 10 times for 52 yards.

With Utah still winless in the Pac-12, head coach Kyle Whittingham must find a way to stop the bleeding, and resolve his team's mental errors and mishaps.

As the Utes are finding, there is almost no margin of error in the Pac-12 and must adjust their game to that fact as they have long gotten away with winning in spite of mental errors and mistakes in the past.

Fortunately, Utah's road gets easier from here on out, with only one remaining opponent with a winning record in Arizona, who beat Washington Saturday to improve to 4-3. Future Ute opponents have a combined 7-15 record.

Utah hopes to find relief by returning home for two consecutive games starting October 27. The Utes meet 3-5, 2-3 Cal at Rice-Eccles time in the popular blackout game starting at 7:45 PM MST.


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