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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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Utah Football: Utes fail to defend when it counts

A defense that can't get to the quarterback can generally make up for that deficiency with good linebackers and a good defensive backfield.

A defense that can't cover any wide receivers can generally make up for that deficiency with a fearsome front that can put pressure on a quarterback.

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A defense that can't do either will suffer and generally suffer greatly.

On Saturday night, Utah's defense couldn't do either.

In what was a disappointing 51-48 overtime defeat, the Utes let Brandin Cooks go wild with 210 receiving yards and the game-winning touchdown catch. They allowed Sean Mannion to do whatever he wanted in the pocket to the tune of 443 passing yards and five touchdown tosses. They allowed Richard Mullaney seven receptions and 142 yards, and a critical fourth down catch when one more incompletion would've likely meant victory.

"We're a very average defense, at best," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.

"We didn't get home on the blitzes and we let Mannion get too comfortable in the pocket," sophomore linebacker Jason Whittingham said.

Right now, Utah's defense is a bit broken, and it needs to be fixed. Next week, the Utes will face a ground game at BYU capable of putting up big numbers. Three weeks from now, Utah gets Brett Hundley and UCLA. Then it's Stanford. You get the picture. It gets significantly more difficult from here.

Much of the blame for Saturday's defensive performance will go to the secondary. But Jason Whittingham and the linebackers are taking responsibility as well.

"It's not all on the defensive backs," Whittingham said. "Our job is to get to the quarterback and we didn't do that tonight. We need to come back next week and make sure we get to him (Taysom Hill), especially since he's a good runner. We need to be tougher."

In what was an awful performance this week defensively, performing well in Provo next Saturday amounts to a must for the Utes.

Tony Jones

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