Even though the Utah Utes are burdened by their longest losing streak since 2005, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham remains optimistic and convinced the Utes are on the right path to becoming a successful team.
"We need to keep working and find answers but it’s not like we aren’t competing," Whittingham said Monday. "Losing 21-14 [at UCLA], there are no moral victories, but we are a lot closer than a lot of people think we are."
Utah’s struggling offense faces its greatest challenge of the season Saturday against Oregon State’s defense. Here is how the Beavers rank by category.
Yds Pac-12 NCAA
Rushing 119.6 1 4
Passing 291.8 10 112
Total 361.8 6 45
Scoring 18.4 2 25
One reason Whittingham remains positive despite a three-game losing streak is he finally sees some consistency in his team after several weeks of turnover and turmoil.
The Utes are sticking with freshman Travis Wilson at quarterback, have an improving offensive line and have made the majority of the changes they want to make to the offensive schemes.
"Barring any unforeseen changes, this is the path we are heading down," Whittingham said. "This is the best path for us to be productive."
Wilson earned a vote of confidence from his coach after playing reasonably well at UCLA, where he was 23 of 33 for 220 yards.
"The guys have confidence in him; we saw that in the game," Whittingham said. "He needs to continue to improve, but he is the guy."
Wilson said Saturday’s game increased his confidence in his own abilities and in the offense, but he knows he still is a ways away from the level of play the Utes need out of him.
"I definitely didn’t play as good as I wanted to," he said of his debut. "I definitely should have made more plays and some of the passes weren’t on target or as good as they needed to be. I just need to keep working."
Unfortunately for the Utes, it will be a tall order to translate any improvement into a win this week. Utah (2-4, 0-3) plays at No. 8 Oregon State (5-0, 3-0) on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN2.
Oregon State is ranked fourth nationally with a defense that is giving up just 70 yards on the ground per game. The Beavers are 25th in scoring defense, yielding just 18.4 points per contest.
OSU is without quarterback Sean Mannion, who injured his knee two weeks ago. But backup Cody Vaz looked plenty capable in leading the Beavers to a 42-24 win over BYU, throwing for 332 yards and three touchdowns against a pretty solid Cougar defense.
The Beavers are the highest ranked opponent the Utes have faced since losing to No. 4 TCU 47-7 at home in 2010.
Avoiding a similar debacle and possibly upsetting the Beavers is possible for the Utes, defensive end Trevor Reilly said.
"We are close," he said. "We are one win away from turning this thing around. We have to win this game. We’re going against a good offense, a great defense and coach [Mike] Riley has really turned things around for them, but this could change the attitude of the whole season for us."
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