The bad news about the Utah Utes’ start is they are 0-2 in league play. The good news is, thanks to a previous bad start, the Utes know firsthand how quickly things can change in the Pac-12.
For that reason, they insist they remain positive even as they prepare for a difficult road trip to UCLA (4-2, 1-2).
Utah at UCLASaturday, 1 p.m.
TV » Ch. 13
"All we can do is go back to practice, get better and produce more," receiver DeVonte Christopher said.
The Utes (2-3, 0-2) started the 2011 season 0-4 in league play then won their next four games to put them in a position to possibly go to the Rose Bowl if everything fell their way in the final weeks.
It did, except for the Utes’ loss to Colorado in the regular-season finale.
The Utes know such freaky finishes don’t happen often, but as many surprises and upsets as there have been already, the players believe there is plenty at stake in the coming weeks.
Further evidence of how unpredictable the league is came Saturday with Cal’s 43-17 upset of the Bruins, who were ranked No. 25.
"This league is wide open," running back John White said. "We have to keep fighting."
Still, losses can take a toll on a team, particularly when one has struggled to live up to preseason expectations as the Utes have.
The career-ending injury to quarterback Jordan Wynn is just one of the issues the Utes have faced, along with some spotty play by the defense, an ever-changing offensive line and an ineffective run game.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham doesn’t think his team will get discouraged to the point it gives up.
"I don’t worry about this team doing that," he said. "There is no quit in them. We have great leaders and they’ll continue to go out and fight and compete. Sometimes you have to deal with losses, that is the nature of this business."
Getting back on the winning track against UCLA is a tall task for the Utes.
Utah has won the last two games against the Bruins, but is 0-5 in Los Angeles.
The Bruins also appear to be a much better team than the one the Utes beat 31-6 last year.
First-year coach Jim Mora has breathed new life into a program that was inconsistent and failed to contend with the Pac-12’s elite teams under former coach Rick Neuheisel.
The Bruins rank eighth nationally in total offense, averaging 529 yards a game, and rank 41st in scoring, at 33.5 points a game.
In comparison, the Utes ranked 114th in total offense, averaging only 299.4 yards, and 88th in scoring, averaging 24 points.
Like the Bruins, the Utes believe their changes are for the best, even if the changes aren’t translating into league wins just yet.
"We’ll hang together and keep fighting," Whittingham said.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.