Utah left frustrated after third straight loss, 30-10 to Arizona State

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) gets frustrated as he talks with teammates during third quarter of the game at Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday, October 21, 2017. Arizona State Sun Devils defeated Utah Utes 30-10.

Cody Barton lifted Rice-Eccles Stadium out of its autumn daze.

His third-down blitz wasn’t tracked, so the backup linebacker grabbed hold of Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins and threw him to the ground. It was Utah’s first sack in over two games and the first time the defense held the Sun Devils to a 3-and-out all day. There was one major caveat: Utah was down 23-3 late in the third quarter and that brief thrill proved to be fleeting. On the next drive, Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley throw his third interception of the game on a failed screen attempt.

So as the third quarter came to a close, the sliver of Sun Devil fans in the southwest corner of the stadium chanted “ASU! ASU!”, which only grew stronger as Utah fans inside Rice-Eccles Stadium were left hushed.

“We failed the test,” Huntley said.

Utah lost its third straight game Saturday afternoon against the Sun Devils, 30-10. The last time the Utes (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) rode a three-game losing skid was in 2013. Beyond the three consecutive loses, though, concern heightens for a team that started 4-0 and had aspirations of a Pac-12 title. The 265 yards of total offense was Utah’s fewest since a win at Stanford in 2014.

“We’re just trying to figure out who we are on offense right now,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “You’d think we’d know seven games in, but right now, we don’t know.”

In his first start since injuring his throwing shoulder against Arizona on September 22, Huntley never found a rhythm, going 19-of-35 for 155 yards and finishing with four interceptions. As the offense failed to threaten, the defense was unable to stop ASU’s two-headed rushing attack of Demario Richard (18 carries, 93 yards, one touchdown) and Kalen Ballage (14 carries, 75 yards).

“Just too soft against the run,” Whittingham said.

ASU took a 16-0 lead in the first half, capitalizing on Utah’s porous run defense and Huntley’s first interception. Sun Devils kicker Brandon Ruiz drilled three first-half field goals, and Richard eventually punctuated a nine-play, 94-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 40 seconds left before halftime.

“We didn’t do our assignments to the best of our abilities,” said senior linebacker Kavika Luafatasga, who had Utah’s lone takeaway of the day. “That was it.”

Wilkins later scored on a 1-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to put the Sun Devils up 23-3. That capped a 12-play, 75-yard drive. The Utes lost two defensive players on that drive, middle linebacker Donavan Thompson and free safety Corrion Ballard, who were ejected due to two targeting calls.

Huntley’s last interception of the day went right to Arizona State’s Jay Jay Wilson, who returned the pick 20 yards for a touchdown to put the Sun Devils up 30-3 with 7:31 left in the fourth quarter. Rrunning back Devonta’e Henry-Cole scored the Utes’ lone touchdown of the day — a 2-yard run — with 2:41 left for the final margin.

By then the stands were nearly emptied, the game out of hand, as the Sun Devil faithful kept the party going. Inside the postgame press conference, Huntley stepped to the dais to speak on his first loss as a starter, the anger of the performance in his eyes when he took a seat.

“We just didn’t come out to play, that’s all it was,” Huntley said. “We just didn’t come out to play. It showed.”

Asked to specify if it was the entire offense, Utah’s quarterback summed up the day to forget quite appropriately.

“Everybody,” he said, “everybody in Utah football, we all did that.”