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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Utes play better but result is the same

Well at least the Utah Utes didn't get embarrassed this time. The Utes, who fell 38-28 to USC Thursday, played better than they did at Arizona State, but the outcome still looks the same in the Pac-12 standings.

The loss still felt the same too, receiver DeVonte Christopher said.

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"It hurts," he said.

Christopher blamed the penalties for much of Utah's troubles.

"Those were the biggest negatives," he said. "There were some big plays, I remember one conversion on a third down, that was brought back. We have to do better in the situational football."

The Utes were penalized 13 times for 122 yards while USC was penalized 14 times for 100 yards. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was obviously unhappy with the calls, saying the players should be allowed to play.

Ultimately though the Utes gave credit to USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns.

"He gets the ball out of his hands in a hurry," Whittingham said. "The way he does that, he is a great quarterback, maybe the best in the country."

As for Utah's quarterback situation, Whittingham said he liked the way Travis Wilson moved the team at the end of the game and he maybe should have gotten more opportunities. He added that Jon Hays is still the quarterback, but it sounds like the Utes may at least give Wilson some more looks, particularly since they have some extra days before playing at UCLA.

That extra time too will help the offense in general, particularly as offensive coordinator Brian Johnson continues to adjust it, Christopher said.

"We played to our strength but didn't have a lot of time, just the past week, and we switched up a lot," he said. "But there are only so many hours you can practice."

The Utes have that time now and will do so behind closed doors since there is no media availability until Monday.

For now, here are the grades on the Utes

Offense - C- Penalties, converting just three of 12 third-down conversions and an overall inability to move the ball hurt the Utes. Particularly disappointing was Utah's run game which continues to struggle.

Defense - B- The Utes had a good start but couldn't get to Barkley and had no answer for Marqise Lee or Robert Woods.

Special Teams - C The Utes didn't do anything spectacular and a 48-yard field goal attempt by Coleman Petersen was blocked.

Coaching - B Whittingham said he liked the balance of run vs. passing with the Utes rushing 22 times and passing 38 times. However, he also said the Utes maybe should have gone to the air more. Given that he liked how Travis Wilson looked in his brief appearance, don't be surprised if the Utes might look at him to open up the offense more.

- Lya Wodraska

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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