Against Texas, Utah’s offense goes stone-cold for second straight game

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Texas Longhorns defensive back B.J. Foster (25) and defensive lineman Malcolm Roach (32) pile on Utah Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) for a quarterback sack in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019.

San Antonio • Twenty-five days after Utah’s prolific offense went cold against Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game, things didn’t get much better in the Alamo Bowl.

After 12 regular-season games, the Utes offense was averaging 35.6 points and 453.6 yards per game, both good for third in the Pac-12 and in the top-25 nationally. On Tuesday night against Texas at the Alamodome, Utah was shut out in the first half of a 38-10 loss at the Alamodome.

Against a Texas defense playing under an interim coordinator after ranking 108th nationally, the Utes managed just 254 yards for the game, 127 in each half.

All of this came after Utah was shut out in three of four quarters against the Ducks, finishing with 15 points and 309 yards of total offense.

“We just weren’t able to find a rhythm,” said senior running back Zack Moss, whose 57 rushing yards left him two all-purpose yards shy of the school’s career record. “We wanted to soften them up with the run game and reduce some of the blitzing they were doing. They were blitzing pretty much 80 percent of the game. We wanted to soften that up. We were unable to do that, so we had some offensive woes throughout the game.”

Utah’s first five drives against the Longhorns resulted in Ben Lennon punts. For some perspective, over the season’s first 13 games, Lennon punted just 37 times.

The first four drives went 25 yards or less. The Utes didn’t cross midfield until the fifth drive, thanks to a Moss 26-yard run late in the second quarter got them to the Texas 35. A questionable intentional grounding call on Tyler Huntley stalled the drive, Lennon wound up punting in plus territory from the 48.

Even with the offense struggling, Texas wasn’t doing enough to put the game out of reach. The Longhorns took a 10-0 halftime lead, but Utah got the ball out of the locker room.

That initial second-half drive saw Derrick Vickers pick up four yards over left end to set up fourth-and-1 from the Utah 45. After a Utes timeout, Huntley looked to take a keeper to the left side, but the senior couldn’t get to the edge. A two-yard loss turned the ball over on downs.

“We didn’t make them pay for the amount of blitzing they were doing,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We’ve got to pick it up, and we’ve got to get the ball downfield and make them pay. We didn’t do that, and we weren’t handling the pressure like we need it to.”

Utah’s two scoring drives, 11 plays for 60 yards and nine plays for 75 yards, yielded its only 10 points of the night.