Utes fall to Oregon, 44-21
Eugene, Ore. • Adam Schulz wanted to be the hero Saturday and lead the Utah Utes to an upset over No. 6 Oregon. But all the want and desire in the world couldn't help Schulz and the Utes overcome Oregon's mighty combination of a standout defense and quick-strike scoring abilities.
Oregon, coming off a loss to Stanford that might have ended its national title hopes, took out its anger and frustration on the Utes Saturday in a 44-21 victory in front of 56,481 at Autzen Stadium.
The Ducks (9-1, 6-1) scored 27 straight points in the second half to turn a close game into a blowout with quarterback Marcus Mariota going 19-of-26 for 288 yards and three touchdowns.
Utah's offense, which has struggled in the past three weeks, had another rough day as the Utes (4-6, 1-6) managed just 297 total yards and crossed midfield only four times.
The Utes scored on three of those trips, but the Utes needed more, much more, to upend the Ducks.
"Overall it was a great effort by Oregon," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "They took control in the second half, and we have to find a way to not let that happen."
The loss could hardly be blamed on Schulz, who started in place of sophomore Travis Wilson, who remained in Salt Lake City due to the effects of a head injury suffered during last week's loss to Arizona State.
Whittingham sounded ominous after the game, saying he hoped to have more on Wilson's status on Monday and that his "thoughts and prayers" were with Wilson.
"All that matters is his health," Whittingham said.
Schulz finished the game 13-of-30 for 181 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
In the end, it wasn't so much the quarterback play that cost Utah the game on Saturday as it was a few big plays made by the Ducks.
Every time the Utes got a little hope, Oregon shut them down.
When Utah cut Oregon's lead to 10-7 with a 1-handed touchdown catch by tight end Jake Murphy, the Ducks responded with a three-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown play between Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and receiver Josh Huff.
In the third quarter when Utah pulled within 17-14 with a 4-yard touchdown run by Schulz, Oregon widened the gap when De'Anthony Thomas returned the kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown that put the Ducks back up 23-14.
That score marked the beginning of the end of any thoughts of a Utah comeback as the Ducks extended their lead to 44-14.
Utah running back Bubba Poole scored on a 10-yard run with 6:01 remaining, but by then the "wheels had come off," Whittingham said.
"The play of the game was that kickoff return," Whittingham said. "It swung all the momentum in their favor and we never recovered."
Oregon finished with 145 rushing yards after managing just 10 in the first half. Such stout defense against the run has typified Utah's defensive efforts of late, but it couldn't make up for the lapses that allowed the big plays, said defensive end Trevor Reilly.
"The big difference was those four or five missed assignments," he said. "My little sister could have caught some of those touchdown passes."
Perhaps any other time playing the nation's No. 6 team close through three quarters would be an encouraging sign to the Utes that they are moving in the right direction as a program.
But now mired in a four-game losing streak, matching the longest the Utes have had under Whittingham, the Utes are simply tired of losing.