Tempe, Ariz. • The Utah Utes weren’t naive enough to believe their time in the Pac-12 wouldn’t be without its difficult losses, but to be completely outclassed to the point of embarrassment as they were in Saturday’s 37-7 loss to Arizona State, that was a new one for the Utes.
“I didn’t see that coming,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
It’s doubtful anyone did.
ASU, a seven-point favorite, dominated the Utes like they were some season warm-up act from the Football Championship Subdivision, not a team picked to contend for the Pac-12 South title.
Among the lowlights:
• ASU’s 512 yards were the most Utah had given up since allowing 543 in a loss to Boise State in 2010.
• ASU’s 37 points were the most the Utes have given up in Pac-12 play.
• Utah running back John White had just 17 yards on 13 carries, the lowest total of his career.
• Utah’s 209 yards of total offense were the fewest ASU had allowed in a league game since it gave up 181 at Washington State in 2009.
“We really didn’t do much in the way of positives,” Whittingham said following the debacle.
The outcome certainly wasn’t the way the Utes imagined they’d head into a bye week before hosting USC on Oct. 4. Before the season started, that matchup with the Trojans was anticipated to be one of the biggest games Rice-Eccles Stadium has hosted, with the belief both teams might be undefeated.
Now much of the shine has been worn off the golden matchup with USC losing to Stanford a week ago and the Utes looking like a team in a world of hurt.
The Utes still have issues along the offensive line, a situation complicated by injuries, the run game is nonexistent and the defense is playing surprisingly poor.
Whittingham acknowledged it was a good time for a bye week considering how much improvement the Utes must make.
“We have 12 days to get our act together,” Whittingham said. “The difficulty only continues to increase. We’re not throwing in the towel, that will never happen, but we have a long ways to go.”
One of the most surprising elements of Saturday’s game was the total breakdown on defense in the first half.
The Utes gave up huge chunks of yardage to ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly, who finished 19-for-26 for 326 yards passing and three touchdowns.
He had 259 yards by halftime, when the Utes trailed 31-7. ASU averaged 9.1 yards a play during the first half.
The Utes were without defensive end Joe Kruger and safety Eric Rowe due to injuries, but their absences were no excuse, the Utes said.
“How we played tonight as a defense was not a coach Whittingham defense,” defensive lineman Dave Kruger said. “Our defense needs to work on a lot of things. We need to take the bye week and make the best out of it.”
Both quarterback Jon Hays and Kruger likened the outcome to last year’s 34-10 loss to Cal, a game that proved to be the pivotal point of the season. Following that loss the Utes held several team meetings, made some personnel changes and rededicated themselves to the season.
It’s time to do something like that again, the players said.
“It’s going to take a team effort,” Kruger said. “Everybody on the team has to rededicate themselves and get this monster we have on our back right now off. We need to get back into the groove.”
They need to get back into the groove, before the monster known as USC arrives.
Whittingham’s worst losses as Utah’s coach
2006 • Lost to Boise State 36-3
2007 • Lost at UNLV 27-0
2009 • Lost at TCU 55-28
2010 • Lost to TCU 47-7
2010 • Lost to Boise State 26-3
2012 • Lost at Arizona State 37-7
P USC at Utah, Oct. 4, 7 p.m., TV • ESPN