Utah football: Wilson feeling pressure as Utes struggle
Utah football • QB must improve if team is to reach bowl game.
Published: November 13, 2012 12:25PM
Updated: November 13, 2012 08:57AM
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Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah QB Travis Wilson scrambles to make a play late in the game at Century Link Field in Seattle, Saturday, November 10, 2012.

Experiencing the worst game of his college career was bad enough for Utah quarterback Travis Wilson. Having to relive it Monday during Utah’s news conference just added to the agony the freshman is feeling as the Utes teeter on the verge of bowl ineligibility.

After hearing coach Kyle Whittingham call Utah’s passing effort against Washington “horrendous,” Wilson took all the blame for Utah’s struggles and admitted playing in the Pac-12 was harder than he anticipated.

“It’s been hard and it’s definitely been a grind this whole year,” he said. “I’m still new to this whole thing, too. Last year this time I was playing in a high school game and this is a lot different but I can’t let that hold me down or anything like that. I have to improve this week.”

Wilson, who is 2-3 as a starter since he replaced Jon Hays and made his debut at UCLA, said he has no specific reasons as to why Utah’s offense struggled in the Utes’ 34-15 loss to Washington.

The Utes totaled just 188 yards of offense and had only 55 passing yards.

Wilson also threw an interception and fumbled twice.

Wilson said he was embarrassed by the performance and has to improve before the Utes (4-6, 2-5) host Arizona (6-4, 3-4) Saturday at 8 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

“I really don’t have a right answer or anything,” he said. “I have to make sure I do a better job and have a good week of practice and make sure I’m not making mistakes on my throwing. I need to improve and get a lot better than I did this Saturday.”

While he has yet to win on the road, Wilson has shown improvement in each game he has played until Saturday’s outing, Whittingham said.

“This was the hiccup,” Whittingham said. “Three straight weeks he has taken a big step forward and progressed and this week he wasn’t able to make that happen.”

While Wilson is the main focus of Utah’s struggles as the quarterback, Whittingham didn’t put all the blame on the freshman from San Clemente, Calif.

“We didn’t throw the ball with any accuracy, we had some dropped balls and the protection was spotty,” he said. “There wasn’t one thing to pinpoint, we just never got in sync at all with the throw game for a variety of reasons.”

Wilson wasn’t too interested in having company in his misery.

There were dropped passes and blown protection, but Wilson said he needed to do a better job preparing.

“I shouldn’t have any off games like that,” he said. “I can’t play inconsistent like that and I have to work hard these two weeks.”

Facing Arizona’s defense at home might just be what the rookie quarterback needs to find his confidence again.

The Wildcats are one of the worst defensive units in the country, giving up 491.9 yards and 34.6 points a game.

Wilson knows he can’t assume the Wildcats will be easy to score against, not after what happened Saturday and not with what is at stake for the Utes.

If the Utes don’t win their last two games, they won’t be bowl-eligible for the first time since 2002, when they finished 5-6.

“My focus the rest of these two games is getting the seniors to a bowl game,” he said. “All I want to do for them and all I want to do for this team is work my butt off this week and play for the seniors.”

Travis Wilson as a starter

Opponent Comp Att Int Yds TDs

vs. UCLA 23 33 1 220 0

vs. Oregon St. 15 28 2 172 1

vs. Cal 16 24 1 156 0

vs. Washington St. 17 21 1 171 2

vs. Washington 8 23 1 55 0

Arizona at Utah

P Saturday, 8 p.m.

TV • ESPNU