Utah football: Whittingham unhappy with QBs in 1st scrimmage
All six of Utah's quarterbacks took snaps Tuesday.
None, apparently, played very well.
"Based on today's performance, we don't have a starting quarterback," said head coach Kyle Whittingham after Utah's first scrimmage of fall camp. And though Whittingham said the quarterbacks weren't the only ones at fault, it was the quarterbacks he harped on.
Did the offensive line play poorly? No. Did the receivers screw up? No.
Again and again, he came back to the guys under center.
"We didn't throw the ball nearly efficient enough," Whittingham said. "Not even close. ... A lot of times we had open guys and we were just missing them."
Media were only allowed to observe the final 20 minutes of practice, so you'll have to take his word for it. Official stats show that current No. 1 Travis Wilson went 8-for-21 for 101 yards and two touchdowns, and that top challenger Kendal Thompson was 3-for-8 for 63 yards adding a 15-yard rushing touchdown and another 24-yard run on the ground.
Throw in underwhelming numbers from redshirt freshman backups Conner Manning (2-of-11, 24 yards) and Brandon Cox (2-of-4, 40 yards), and Utah's top four went 15-for-44 for 228 yards.
But the "sky isn't falling," Whittingham said, so long as they improve.
Thompson said he feels it's only natural that the defense got the better of the first extended live work in months.
"Offensive football is a lot of film work," he said. "I feel like, defense, they can just pin their ears back and get after it. They're scheming what they're doing as well, but it's more of an instinct type of football."
Asked if any quarterbacks distinguished themselves as, well, less poor than the others, offensive coordinator Dave Christensen said he didn't know off-hand. Tape, as always, will tell that tale. He didn't come out Tuesday expecting Kalani Sitake's defense to be whip his offense, though.
"As [Michigan coaching legend] Bo Schembechler told me one time, when I was up watching practice, if your offense is ahead of your defense early on, that's a problem," Christensen said. "But that's not been my philosophy. I like to play better. But certainly our defense played well today and stifled our guys a little bit, and we've got to get things turned around and play better on Saturday."
There's a bright side for the offense, and that's that Utah came in with just one fumble and two interceptions in eight practices, Christensen said. Quarterbacks didn't throw any interceptions Tuesday, but Utah running backs Troy McCormick and Devontae Booker both fumbled in critical situations Booker on the 1-yard line, yielding a 89-yard touchdown return from safety Tevin Carter, after a botched exchange with Wilson.
"It's disappointing because they've been very sharp until today, but today in a game-like situation, we didn't respond," Whittingham said. "We didn't answer the bell."
All quarterbacks except Wilson were "live," or free game for tacklers. That was particularly notable in the case of Thompson, the Oklahoma transfer who has been regularly praised for his escapability as coaches caution media not to draw conclusions from his non-live work in Days 1-7.
Thompson said he wasn't thrilled with his performance (and bully for him, lest Whittingham think that's his best foot forward) but he was happy for his first contact since Oklahoma, where he broke his foot on the first day of last years fall camp.
"It felt good," he said with a wide grin.
Quarterbacks were sacked three times, and Whittingham said there might have been more if Wilson had been live.
Wilson blamed offensive woes on slow tempo out of the gates. They've got to come out with more motivation, he said, and he's got to get the offensive line up to the line of scrimmage faster.
"We played good in some areas, but not good enough," he said. "It's something that we'll really have to watch film of and correct for next scrimmage on Saturday."
Passing • Wilson 8-21-0, 101 yards, 2 TDs; Thompson 3-8-0, 63 yards; Manning 2-11-0, 24 yards; Cox 2-4-0, 40 yards.
Rushing • McCormick 9 carries, 40 yards, fumble; Poole 9 carries, 30 yards; Thompson* 8 carries, 22 yards, 1 TD; Booker 6 carries, 17 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble; Wilson 4 carries, 11 yards; Young 2 carries, 3 yards; Cox 1 carry, 5 yards.
Receiving • Patrick 6 catches, 81 yards; Hatfield 3 catches, 44 yards; Anderson 2 catches, 37 yards, 1 TD; Poole 1 catch, 34 yards; Lewis 1 catch, 19 yards; Young 1 catch, 16 yards; McClellon 1 catch, 13 yards, 1 TD; Booker 1 catch, 5 yards; Fakailoatonga 1 catch, -2 yards.
Kicking • Halliday 2-2 FG, from 41 and 27 yards.
Sacks • Fanaika 1 (-2); Dimick 1 (-15); Taumopenu 0.5 (-10); Reese 0.5 (-10).
Tackles for loss • M. Williams 2 (-2); Allen 1 (-2).
Pass break-ups • Porter, Dimick, Orphey, Larsen, Reese, Thomas, Blechen.
*Whittingham said after practice that he doesn't believe Thompson's rushing yardage is accurate. He ran for more yards than that, he said.