The Utah Utes head into their game preparations for Arizona State this week by doing something teams saddled with losing streaks often have a hard time doing having fun.
In analyzing the recent losses, the Utes felt like they'd lost part of their mojo after the disappointing defeat at Arizona and got too tight and felt too much pressure when they played USC.
Obviously, the state of mind they were in that day didn't do much good for the Utes. They'd like to change their outlook and the outcome this Saturday when they face the 23rd-ranked Sun Devils at 2 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"It hasn't been fun the last two weeks, and we wanted to focus on getting back to that," defensive end Trevor Reilly said. "Going into our last games, we have to win two to get into a bowl game, that is our goal. You always want to be competitive and win every game you play, but we want to get to a bowl game."
With four games remaining, achieving bowl eligibility looks possible for the Utes. After hosting Arizona State on Saturday, they will visit Oregon on Nov. 16 before closing out the regular season with games at Washington State (Nov. 23) and against Colorado (Nov. 30).
However, the Utes would love to better their chances by upsetting the Sun Devils at home.
The Utes have home-field advantage while ASU has struggled in road games, which might raise hopes. However, the Sun Devils had little trouble in Pullman on Thursday as they blasted Washington State 55-21.
ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly passed for five touchdowns and ran for two more in the win, which was a typical kind of outing for the Sun Devils this season.
ASU is 16th nationally averaging 324.9 passing yards and sixth in scoring posting 46.6 points a game.
The Utes struggled against that kind of firepower earlier in the season, but as the season has evolved, so too has Utah's defense to the point that Whittingham said last week the Utes may have to win with defense until the offensive issues are worked out.
No one could have imagined such a statement a few weeks ago when the secondary was getting burned time and time again, but it has improved, Whittingham said.
"Where we started with those guys, experience-wise, and just their amount of time in Division I football for a lot of them, it has been a pleasant surprise for us," he said of the secondary.
Helping the improvement has been the team's attitude overall. Whittingham has been impressed all year long with his team's efforts, save for the loss at Arizona, and has seen no sign of quit in the team after the two recent losses.
The Utes put together several good practices during the bye week and believe a positive outlook will help them this week.
"We want to get back on the field and have fun again," safety Eric Rowe said. "There is nothing else you can do. You could fold, but we don't run that way. We get back up and get working."
Arizona State at Utah
P Saturday, 2 p.m. MST
TV • Pac-12 Networks