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Lack of consistent big-play receiver hurts Utes' offense

Published November 11, 2012 12:32 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

DeVonte Christopher's mother was despondent as she sat in the Seattle airport waiting for her flight early Sunday morning. She worried for her son and wondered why he isn't playing more. She isn't the only one. Christopher, who led Utah in receiving the last two years, has had just one catch in the last four games. That catch came in cleanup duty during Utah's blowout win of Washington State a week ago and hardly mattered in the scheme of things. Christopher used to be the guy who was in on a lot of plays that mattered, but ever since he dropped a pitch on Oregon State's three-yard line, he has been nonexistent in Utah's offensive plans. Is he being punished for that mistake? Has he given up? A few weeks ago Christopher admitted he has struggled with all the changes in quarterbacks and offensive coordinators while coach Kyle Whittingham noted the senior was in a funk and had to work his way out of it. Christopher's dropoff is probably a combination of both viewpoints. What we do know is Christopher is no longer an impact player for Utah, a team that is in desperate need of such playmakers. Saturday's game was a good example of that deficiency as senior Luke Matthews, running back John White and sophomore Kenneth Scott all had drops on what could have been big plays. Quarterback Travis Wilson fumbled twice and threw an interception and punt returner Charles Henderson turned the ball over on a punt in the third quarter when the Utes trailed 21-15. There were plenty of mistakes to be had, but few big plays made outside of White's 46-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The Utes no doubt have their reasons for keeping Christopher benched, but his absence wouldn't be as noticeable if the Utes had others stepping up. Dres Anderson, Reggie Dunn, Scott and others have had moments, but no one has delivered consistently. The Utes lack a 'go-to' guy, a role that Christopher once played. What made Utah's lack of a role player stand out Saturday was the way Washington quarterback Keith Price used his tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Price went to him for gains of 17, 24, 29 and 10 yards en route to Seferian-Jenkins 99-yard night. Wilson couldn't find such a consistent outlet with Matthews being the leading receiver with four catches for 25 yards. As for the guys who have shown an ability to make big plays, guys like Anderson, Jake Murphy and Scott, they were all but shut out in the game. Whittingham said after the game the coaches needed to do a better job scheming and getting players ready. It will be interesting to see if the Utes go back to Christopher. At this point, it doesn't seem like they have much to lose in doing so, not when they are losing like they did Saturday. - Lya Wodraska