Eugene, Ore. • On the surface, it was a game where things stacked up in the Utes’ favor.
Sure, they had to go on the road, but Oregon’s starting quarterback was still on the mend, and the true freshman who replaced him had been operating with a limited passing game. Meanwhile, the Oregon defense had allowed 31 points or more in each of its past three games.
Instead of getting on track, Utah’s season may have just gone sailing off the rails.
The Ducks handed the Utes a 40-21 thrashing in front of an announced 56,154 in Autzen Stadium on Saturday. Utah fell to 4-4 and 1-4 in the Pac-12 with its first four-game losing streak since 2013.
“Four games straight we lost,” Utes sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley said. “That’s (expletive) embarrassing. Excuse my language.”
The Ducks averaged 7.1 yards per carry and finished with 347 yards rushing as the backfield tandem of Royce Freeman (20 carries, 139 yards) and Tony Brooks-James (six carries, 105 yards) scampered all over the field.
“We threw the ball around a little bit, got some decent production, but rushing yards are far more damaging than throw yards – that’s just how it is,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Statistically, that’s a fact. We couldn’t run the ball effective enough. … That was really the difference in the game.”
The Utes rushed for 91 yards. Zack Moss led the team with 53 yards on 10 carries, while Huntley rushed 16 times for 46 yards.
Utah wide receiver and former Oregon standout Darren Carrington II caught nine passes for 130 yards, while Huntley went 25-of-43 passing for 293 yards and two touchdowns.
Utah’s offense entered the game off a dreadful offensive performance against Arizona State, its lowest scoring game in nearly two years. The struggles prompted first-year offensive coordinator Troy Taylor to move from the field level to the press box for the first time this weekend.
“I’m focused on us,” Carrington said. “We’ve got to fix our problems.”
Carrington was blunt when asked about what the problem was on Saturday.
“Lack of caring,” Carrington said. “We’ve got to come out and play every play.”
Huntley put every bit of his elusiveness to use as he faced pressure from all angles, particularly in the second half when the Utes were scrambling to catch up to their hosts, and Huntley was scrambling to keeps plays alive.
The Ducks held the Utes to 3 rushing yards and 131 yards of offense in the first half. They went up 17-3 when Carrington II pulled in a pass behind the line of scrimmage, got the ball stripped from him, and Ugochukwu Amadi returned it 47 yards for a touchdown with 5:54 remaining in the first half.
The Utes showed some signs of life before halftime, with Huntley throwing a 46-yard pass on the run to Carrington to set up a 34-yard Matt Gay field goal before halftime to make it 17-6. The Utes pulled within 17-13 on the first drive of the second half when Tyler Huntley’s pass on fourth-and-goal deflected into the arms of right tackle Darrin Paulo.
However, the Ducks added a field goal and a 22-yard pass off a reverse from wide receiver Charles Nelson to Jacob Breeland in the third quarter to extend its lead to 27-13. Utes safety Marquise Blair nearly had Nelson dropped for a loss on the play, but Nelson stayed on his feet and tossed it into the end zone, where Breeland went up in traffic and pulled down the catch.
Oregon added another TD for a 34-13 lead before Huntley connected with Siaosi Wilson with under 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to make it a 14-point game. The Utes offense didn’t cross midfield the rest of the game, and Kani Benoit added a touchdown run for the Ducks with 2:10 remaining.
“I’m embarrassed,” defensive end Kylie Fitts said. “I’m not used to this. I don’t know how to … I just know we’re going to keep fighting. Us leaders, we’re going to keep leading. We’re not going to stop fighting. We’re not going to let this spiral down. We’re going to keep fighting. We’re just going to come back Monday and get ready for UCLA.”