Kragthorpe: Utah schools not offensive
Nobody really was supposed to win last Saturday. The surprising thing was the way everybody lost.
The state's three Division I-A football schools delivered their fewest total points of any weekend in 32 years, combining for two offensive touchdowns and producing some rather offensive statistics. Curtis Brown, soon to become Brigham Young's career rushing leader, averaged 2 yards against Arizona. Utah State registered five first downs at Wyoming. Utah never converted a third-down play against UCLA.
And it was contagious. Weber State posted minus-38 rushing yards at Colorado State and Dixie State lost seven turnovers at Adams State. OK, Southern Utah scored 34 points, but that was against Montana Tech, so the Thunderbirds' showing can be overlooked in the pursuit of this theme.
USU's offensive futility was "a little bit of a shock to us, because we had played so well during camp," said coach Brent Guy, and he was not the only one feeling stunned Monday.
Did anybody see this coming? I mean, even factoring in the usual preseason optimism, there was no suggestion that any of these offenses would struggle so much, was there?
After eight months of anticipation, season openers tend to produce more overreaction than necessary. So here's my advice in the wake of last weekend: Give it another week - or four weeks, in the case of Utah State.
The problems are treatable, probably requiring only some home games and a different set of opponents, not from the Pac-10. It is absolutely not time to talk about making Fui Vakapuna BYU's featured running back or bringing Utah quarterback Brian Johnson out of redshirt or allowing freshman QB Riley Nelson anywhere near the field, behind USU's young offensive line.
Unless everybody loses again this Saturday, at which time statewide panic will be authorized.
These teams still have 11 games to play and conference titles to chase, which is supposed to be the encouraging part. Yet certainly, questions persist, coming out of the opening weekend:
Is John Beck's career cursed?
Is Brett Ratliff imperfect, after all?
Is Leon Jackson III capable of winning even III games this season?
Over three-plus seasons at BYU, Beck has grown as a quarterback and team spokesman, except the scene is too often the same. At Arizona, he was very accurate, making every kind of throw and moving the Cougars up and down the field, only to lose again.
Was it all his fault? Of course not. It never is. Beck could only watch as BYU's defense, which had played solidly all night, let Arizona keep the ball for the last five minutes and drive barely far enough to kick the winning field goal.
But Beck's offense also could have delivered a touchdown instead of a tying field goal on BYU's last drive of the 16-13 loss, the kind of what-if opportunity that has characterized his career. He's 12-15 as a starting QB, meaning if he's going to leave with 10,000 passing yards and a winning record, the Cougars have to go 8-4 the rest of the way. That's reasonable, considering the defense's improvement.
Besides, Steve Young and Ty Detmer lost their openers as BYU seniors. Young went 11-0 after that and Detmer finished 8-2-2.
In contrast to Beck, Ratliff struggled against UCLA. Did anyone really expect him to win every start as a Ute quarterback? Well, yeah, after he spoiled everyone with his play against BYU and Georgia Tech last season.
Saturday's 13-for-31 performance in a 31-10 defeat was a surprising reminder that you can't spell erratic without "Rat," who seemed affected by the Utes' brief insertion of Tommy Grady in the second quarter. This, after coach Kyle Whittingham said the biggest thing he learned in college was never to play two quarterbacks.
Grady needs and deserves playing time as a backup QB; I understand that. I just would have saved that experiment for more favorable conditions against Northern Arizona and Utah State.
As for the Aggies, failing to produce an offensive point in a 38-7 loss to Wyoming is not promising, considering what's ahead for them. Jackson will be scrambling like crazy Saturday, with his inexperienced line facing a Southeastern Conference defense. Sure, Arkansas allowed 50 points in its opener, but that was to USC.
Citing dropped passes and other problems "really, everywhere" offensively, Guy said, "We really have to regroup and get our offense back in sync. . . . We've just got to get their confidence back."
That process will be going on up and down the state, during a week of searches for offensive solutions. Just about everybody may be cured as soon as Saturday. If not, we'll talk again next week.
By combining for 30 points Saturday, the state's three Division I-A football schools had their worst offensive day in 32 years. The results of Sept. 28, 1974, with the local teams' final records of that season:
Oklahoma 72, Utah State 3 (8-3)
Iowa State 34, BYU 7 (7-4-1)
Oregon 23, Utah 16 (1-10)
Historic Day Part II
As was the case Saturday, Arizona and Wyoming contributed to the worst overall day offensively for the Utah schools in the last 50 years. The results of Oct. 19, 1968:
Arizona 19, BYU 3
Wyoming 20, Utah 9
Pacific 18, Utah State 3