Don’t worry. Believe.
Tyler Huntley says everything is going to be OK, that the Utah offense is going to come around as soon as all the engine parts are properly placed and greased and functioning, and that that’s a matter of focus and time, not ability. Britain Covey agrees with him. It’s going to happen this week, they have to have faith that it will, in the short run-up to Saturday night’s game against Washington.
“We’ve just got to keep working,” Huntley said. “Just executing what’s in front of us, not worrying about the next play or the last play. … Nothing’s going to go perfect the whole game or anytime with anything in life. You’ve just got to work through it. … If you’re negative about stuff, it’s not going to get you nowhere.”
Added Covey, one of the few bright spots on the offense over the first two games:
“We’re going to have a great week of practice and correct a lot of things we didn’t do well last week. I’m excited. … A lot of it is mental. When you get to the season, you can only improve physically so much. You realize that the mental part is the biggest thing. Helping everyone mentally calm down and focus. They know what to do, it’s just a matter of, when you get out there, where’s your mind at?
“It’s our mental state that’s controlling our physical state," he added. "You see that in the film. You play fast when you know what you’re doing. When you don’t know what you’re doing, you play hesitant. That’s the biggest thing with our offense right now, sometimes we don’t play as fast because we’re not there 100 percent mentally. That’s what we’ve got to fix.”
The Utes, then, are trying to be positive, trying to bend spoons with the power of their minds, sending out positive offensive vibes in all directions, especially inward. The problem with buying completely in and believing is in the Utes’ track record — recent and otherwise.
There are flukes and there are trends when it comes to measuring that effectiveness and defectiveness. When it comes to playing good offense as a member of the Pac-12, the Utes have fallen — are falling? — toward the latter, both historically and presently.
The latest sampling came against Northern Illinois on Saturday when Utah managed a mere 10 points out of its offense during a game it could have lost had its defense not scored seven itself, rescuing the Utes from an embarrassing loss.
Since landing in the conference before the 2011 season, Utah’s scoring offense and total offense have ranked as follows: ninth and 12th, eighth and 11th, 10th and 11th, eighth and 12th, tied for ninth and 11th, eighth and seventh, ninth and eighth. The passing numbers/rankings have been even worse.
Those results kick you in the face with more force when you check out the way the defense has ranked through the years, causing you to wonder — if the Utes can put up such strong resistance, why can’t they excel in a similar manner on the other side of the ball?
It is the shortcoming that has limited Utah in its goal to win the South, an intention it has never realized. Coming into this season, there was real hope that the Utes could ascend to the top. Even the media predicted Utah to finish second. If it’s good enough to be guessed to finish second, it’s not much of a reach to win the thing. Especially now that it’s becoming clear that other teams in the South are struggling, including Arizona, UCLA and USC.
The opportunity is there.
Will Utah’s offense again be the hole that messes over the Utes’ chances to do something out of the ordinary? Even with a returning starting quarterback (Huntley), a returning all-conference-type running back (Zack Moss), a returning electrifying force at receiver after a two-year church mission (Covey), and four returning starters along the offensive line?
In the days after Saturday’s performance, in which targets were missed, balls were dropped, penalties were committed, QB protection was spotty, run blocking was less than forceful, and with Washington next up, piecing the offense together was what everyone in and around the program was either talking or being asked about.
“Our offensive problem in the [NIU] game was finishing drives,” Kyle Whittingham said, adding: “The name of the game is to score points. We didn’t do enough of that offensively. We understand that.”
Said Covey: “Physically, we have more talent than we had my freshman year. At receiving corps, we’ve got talented guys. We have fast guys.”
Linebacker Chase Hansen, a former quarterback, echoed the others: “It comes down to executing. … The offense will do their thing, they’ll figure it out. They can be a real explosive offense, we just haven’t shown it yet. It’s coming. We have a lot of weapons. I play against them every day in practice, so I know.”
“Drive-killer” was the word most often used by players and coaches to describe failings in the attack at Northern Illinois.
Which, translated, is a word that means … dumb mistakes.
Let’s say it all plain here: If the offense doesn’t dial in, if it doesn’t smooth its rough edges, if it doesn’t carry its weight, if it loops a hook around the defense and expects that side to pull the Utes’ hopes forward, winning the South will not happen, same as it hasn’t happened for the better part of a decade now.
In a season like this, that would be a waste.
Is that being too negative?
Whittingham seems convinced immediate improvement can be made.
“We’ll be ready,” he said.
They will have to be.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.