Utah football: Utes keep narrow focus heading into Arizona game
Now that the Utah Utes finally have won a Pac-12 game the mood around the football complex is much better, lineman Tony Bergstrom said.
But as for the goal? That remains as singular as ever.
"All I'm worried about is beating Arizona right now," Bergstrom said. "I'm not looking down the road."
Such a tactic helped the Utes (4-4, 1-4) keep their focus during their undefeated seasons. They figure it'll work now as they try to turn a possibly miserable season into a respectable one.
The Utes believe that Saturday's 27-8 win over Oregon State could be a turning point for them. If they can win out, they'd finish 8-4 and at .500 in the Pac-12. While there is disappointment that their main goal of winning the division will go unrealized, finishing in the middle of the pack in their first venture at the BCS level wouldn't be the most shameful outcome either, particularly given the injury to starting quarterback Jordan Wynn.
Wynn's absence has forced the Utes to downsize their offense considerably, but they still believe they can finish strong.
"We want to send the seniors out the right way," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We want to go out on a positive note and that has been a point of emphasis, particularly with the underclassmen, to do everything possible to make sure the seniors end on a positive note."
The last time the Utes suffered four losses in a season was 2007, when the Utes started the year 1-3, then won eight of their last nine games, including a win over Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Tight end Luke Matthews believes he and his teammates are capable of a similarly strong finish this year.
"Getting to a bowl game would be good," he said. "The seniors deserve that, and being successful the last couple of games would be a great way to finish."
While that goal is out there, the Utes maintain that to be successful, they can't think of anything but Arizona (2-6, 1-5) right now.
The Utes travel to Tucson to take on a team that is coming off a 42-31 loss to Washington and is adjusting to a coaching change after Mike Stoops was fired.
However, the Utes are more concerned with themselves than with the Wildcats.
The last time the Utes went on the road was to Cal, where a lethargic Utah team was thumped by the Bears 34-10.
Another road effort like that can't happen, Bergstrom said.
"I can't explain that game," he said. "Something was lacking there. There wasn't a lot of energy and excitement. I don't know if guys didn't get enough sleep or practice or what. It was like everyone was waiting for someone else to step up and be the motivating guy, and no one did. This week, everyone was trying to be that person. That was the difference."
If the Utes can maintain that same urgency this week, the players believe they can finish on a roll Â not that they are looking that far ahead, mind you.
"It feels good to get that first win," defensive lineman Tevita Finau said. "But it's another week, another team, and time to move on."
A strong finish would salvage what started out as a disaster for the Utes. Here is how the Utes have finished their last four regular-season games each year under coach Kyle Whittingham.
2005 • 3-1
2006 • 3-1
2007 • 3-1
2008 • 4-0
2009 • 2-2
2010 • 2-2
Utah at Arizona
P Saturday, 5 p.m.
TV • Ch. 14
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