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Utah football: Utes search for answers after back-to-back losses

Published October 27, 2013 10:02 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah Utes not only head into their bye week with a loss, but also at a loss. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham admitted as such following Saturday's 19-3 defeat to USC.

The Utes, who are off until they play Arizona State on Nov. 9, have a lot of improvements to make before that game, Whittingham said. They must also make some big decisions too, namely what to do about the quarterback position where sophomore Travis Wilson continues to struggle.

The Utes must determine if they want to keep Wilson as the starter, use backup Adam Schulz or give freshman Conner Manning a chance. The Utes had hoped to redshirt Manning, but he might deserve a look after Wilson went 5-of-14 for 51 yards with two interceptions and a fumble against the Trojans.

Of course, if Wilson, the Utes' most experienced quarterback, is struggling against good Pac-12 defenses, would it be fair to put a freshman quarterback with no experience on the field against such teams as the Sun Devils and Oregon?

It's a dilemma the Utes will take their time in answering with co-offensive coordinators Brian Johnson and Dennis Erickson and Whittingham all weighing in, Whittingham said.

"We have to sit down and, first of all, analyze the film and see where all the issues were," Whittingham said. "He is a tough kid and is resilient like the rest of the team. But we have to sort out what gives us the best chance to win."

As Wilson's play has deteriorated, so too has the rest of the offense with the Utes struggling to get a running game going against the Trojans as well as a passing game.

The Utes managed just 201 yards against the Trojans. Wilson was the leading rusher with 12 carries for 42 yards while running backs Lucky Radley, Kelvin York and Bubba Poole combined for 57 yards on 20 carries.

If the offensive struggles along with the turnovers were a one-off event, Saturday's result would be easier for the Utes to put behind them.

But Whittingham conceded there is a disturbing trend of offensive inefficiency developing.

"We better have some revelations in the bye week," Whittingham said. "We better get our act together."

Losing tight ends Jake Murphy and Westlee Tonga to injuries has cut back on Utah's offensive threats, but the turnovers continue to be the Utes' main problem.

Whittingham gave a wry smile when he was reminded the Utes have Oregon on the schedule following the ASU game.

Even when they are playing well, the Utes expect wins to be tough to come by; throw in the turnovers and "they kill you," Whittingham said.

"We aren't far superior physically to anybody in this conference," he said. "We have to keep slugging away." —

Arizona State at Utah

P Nov. 9, TBA