There were so many areas that could be blamed for the Utah Utes’ 35-24 loss at Arizona on Saturday. Arizona won most of the battles at the line of scrimmage, Wildcats’ back Ka’Deem Carey had a career night, there were the turnovers and a lack of production from the run game.
In the end Utah coach Kyle Whittingham chalked up the defeat to something even more simple — the Utes just weren’t ready.
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For all their talk of putting the Stanford win behind them and being focused on the Wildcats, the Utes (4-3, 1-3) came out flat, so much so that after the game Whittingham compared the loss to Utah’s 37-7 defeat to Arizona State last year and the embarrassing 34-10 loss to Cal in 2011.
"This league is too good not to play with every ounce of [passion] and energy you have," he said.
Now the Utes have to regroup for another road trip when more than their egos are hurting.
The Utes, who play at USC Saturday, face the Trojans with quarterback Travis Wilson nursing an injured hand.
As is his policy, Whittingham declined to offer details on Wilson’s injury, saying he’ll have to see how the week goes.
"There are a lot of unknowns," he said.
Wilson had several cuts on his hand and thumb from past games and his hand was swollen at halftime of Saturday’s game.
How much the injury can be blamed for Wilson’s poor showing is debatable. He completed just three passes for 15 yards and a touchdown and threw two interceptions before he was benched for good.
Backup Adam Schulz went 12-for-23 for 142 yards in his place and said he and the Utes will rebound.
"I don’t expect anything less than this team pulling together," he said. "We’ve done it through summer and spring and we’ve worked too hard to do anything other than that."
Schulz, a sophomore, played in just one game last year, going 2-for-2 passing for 52 yards against Washington State.
However, the former walk-on from Muskego, Wis., has impressed Utah’s coaches with his strong arm and leadership.
The Utes could use a guy with a positive outlook about now, considering how defeating the Arizona game was both mentally and physically.
That the Utes let such an opportunity for a road win go by the wayside simply stunk, in the words of senior defender Trevor Reilly. One of the veteran players of the team, Reilly knows the Utes don’t get many chances like Saturday when they faced a team that was struggling defensively and was dependent on their run game.
But that run game turned out to be more than the Utes could handle with Carey finishing with 40 carries for 236 yards.
"I haven’t seen the film yet, but just watching the game, we gave away the game just by our soft start in the front," he said. "It was ours for the taking. I thought we matched up well with them."
If there is any consolation for the Utes, it is that they’ve often bounced back from such losses with good efforts. It’s time they do it again.
"There are two or three games where I can remember having this same feeling, and you have to bounce back," Whittingham said.
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