Utah football: John White returns, but can't lift Utes' run game
Tempe, Ariz. • John White gave all his assurances Saturday night that he is at full health.
That isn't necessarily the good news Utah football fans hoped for.
Instead the news, if accurate, illuminates a more troubling reality: Utah running woes extend well beyond whether White is healthy enough to play.
"I feel like I'm fine," he said after gaining 17 yards and fumbling twice on 13 carries. "I just didn't execute. I wasn't a playmaker out there."
He wasn't alone in the 37-7 loss. Utah gained just 92 yards on the ground, most of which could be attributed to the emergence of junior college transfer Kelvin York, who had one good series and two big runs and finished with 82 yards on 16 carries.
White missed last week's win against Brigham Young and took limited reps in practice, according to Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, but his return was uglier than his absence.
It was the fewest yards in a game by White, who is in his second year with the Utes, although it's unknown how much of that can be blamed on his ankle or credited to the ASU defense.
"The seams were there, I just wasn't hitting them," White said. "I was thinking too much. I just feel like I didn't do my job."
If it sounds familiar, it's because White had a costly third-quarter fumble that swung momentum to Arizona State in last year's 35-14 loss to the Sun Devils at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
On Utah's first three drives, he carried the ball six times for just 10 yards before fumbling away the ball to set up the Sun Devils with good field position for their third first-quarter touchdown.
Whittingham said after the win over BYU that the Utes were hurt in the run game "due to missing cuts and not great vision." He said he didn't know what the problem was Saturday without first watching film.
If there was a bright spot for the Utah run game, it was York, who carried the load in Utah's lone scoring drive. He tallied 63 yards on that drive, although the numbers were inflated by runs of 17 and 32 yards.
Twitter: @oramb • A banged-up John White had a career-low 17 yards rushing and two fumbles.
• Utah's running game now appears suspect even when White plays.
• Backup Kelvin York emerged in his best game as a Ute, including a 36-yard run.