Utah football notes: Utes need a spark for USC game
The Utah Utes acknowledged they didn't have any fire in the first half of their game at Arizona and seemed to have trouble mustering much on Monday as they started prepping for Saturday's game against USC.
Losing the game at Arizona was a blow to Utah's bowl hopes as well as their overall outlook.
The Utes knew that the Arizona game was a prime chance for them to get a league road win. That they didn't start well in the game left the team with lingering frustrations, defender Trevor Reilly acknowledged.
"We have to have a good lift and practice clean all week," Reilly said when asked what it would take to get over the disappointing loss. "The biggest thing is come game day, we have to come hard to play as a team and we didn't do that [against Arizona]."
Like Reilly, linebacker Jared Norris said he could sense the team wasn't where it needed to be before the Arizona game.
"I don't know where it came from but you have to get yourself up for the game," he said. "Even if you have to fake it at first, eventually you can get juiced and get ready. The biggest thing is you have to come out ready to go and I'll do the best I can to make it contagious this week."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who compared the Arizona loss to other poor games such as losses to ASU last year and Cal in 2011, said the Utes have fallen into a troubling pattern of starting slow, with Arizona, Stanford and UCLA all scoring first.
"Something has to change," he said.
New faces at tight end
Losing tight ends Westlee Tonga and Jake Murphy has hurt Utah's offense, Whittingham acknowledged, and the Utes need to get backups Greg Reese and Siale Fakailoatonga more involved.
Both played sparingly against Arizona.
"Going forward we need to be implementing them more," Whittingham said. "We need more diversity on offense."
Like the Utes, USC's secondary has struggled this year, which might necessitate a change Saturday. USC interim coach Ed Orgeron told the Los Angeles Times they are considering moving junior Josh Shaw from safety to corner, where he started the final seven games in 2012.
Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees was 14-of-21 for 166 yards before he left Saturday's game with a neck strain.
USC ranks fifth in passing defense, giving up an average of 223.6 yards a game.