Utah football notes: Red-zone errors have Whitt seeing red

Published November 3, 2009 9:34 pm
Utah notes » Coach has seen too many Ute drives stall inside opponents' 20-yard line.
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Lost in the buzz surrounding Jordan Wynn 's emergence is an issue that still bugs Utah coach Kyle Whittingham -- Utah's poor red-zone performance.

The Utes scored three times out of their five trips into the red zone Saturday, but the Utes had to settle for field goals twice in the second half after false starts killed drives.

The Utes were 0-for-2 in the first half, with a fumble causing a loss of 18 yards followed by a missed 43-yard field goal. At the end of the half, the Utes reached Wyoming's 17-yard line then went backward with Terrance Cain being sacked twice, and the Utes committing a false-start penalty between the sacks. The drive ended when Cain threw an incomplete pass from Wyoming's 34-yard line on fourth-and-25.

The Utes were 4-for-13 on third down conversions in part because of all the mistakes.

"It was something we thought we had heading in the right direction was our red zone and third down production and it showed up again on Saturday night as a liability," Whittingham said. "We have to go back to the drawing board there and continue to work those two areas."

The Utes rank 57th nationally in third-down conversions (43-of-108) and 106th in red zone offense (20 of 28 drives, nine rushing TDs, four passing TDs, 7 FGs).

"We've had false starts down there and really the lack of third down production is probably is the biggest nemesis," Whittingham said. "If we're converting on third downs, drives are staying alive so that ties into the red zone. Third downs are the biggest issue but if we get that solved, the red zone should take care of itself."

The decision to start Wynn the second half was made because the Utes were struggling to finish drives and improving the Utes' red zone performance is a priority for Wynn, he said.

"We have to cut down on penalties," he said. "We're really shooting ourselves in the foot, defenses haven't stopped us we're stopping ourselves. It's something we have to work on and we need to step up and make some plays in the red zone and not be afraid to cut it loose, that is something I am going to try to do, not be afraid to cut it loose."

However, the lack of production doesn't fall onto Cain's shoulders alone, as evidenced by Utah's second half issues.

"It's one thing or another, no real common ground on what it is," Whittingham said of the problems. "It's not one area to focus on, but we'll get it done."

Neal fined

Maurice Neal , a sophomore linebacker, was sentenced Tuesday to probation and a $200 fine for his involvement in a May 31 bar fight.

Neal, 21, was charged with two counts of simple assault and one count of failing to stop at the command of an officer, class A misdemeanors.

On Tuesday, Neal pleaded in 3rd District Court to failing to stop at the command of an officer and the other two counts were dismissed. Neal was ordered to commit no new crimes during his 12-month probation period.

According to court documents, Neal fought with two men outside of a sports bar near 300 S. West Temple, kicking one man in the torso and head. He then ran from police before being apprehended.

Whittingham said he was glad the case was resolved but that Neal is planning to transfer at midyear.

He has not yet decided on a school.

"He thought it was in his best interest to go back to California," Whittingham said.

No go, Joe

Joe Phillips was 7-for-7 on field-goal attempts until he missed a 43-yarder Saturday, but he did recover to kick field goals from 43, 26 and 38 yards. He leads the league in field goal percentage (90.9) and has a career long of 48 yards against Louisville.

However, Whittingham hesitated to give him a shot at what would have been a 51-yarder at the end of the first half, electing to let Cain throw instead because Phillips' 43-yarder "squeaked" over.

"You have to go with what you think is your best percentages," he said.

lwodraska@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">lwodraska@sltrib.com

New Mexico at No. 17 Utah

Saturday, 4 p.m.

TV » The Mtn.



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