Utah coach Kyle Whittingham not making excuses for struggles vs. Oregon

The Utes suffered a 20-17 defeat at Autzen Stadium.

(Andy Nelson | AP) Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham looks at the scoreboard after taking a timeout against Oregon during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Eugene, Ore.

Utah quarterback Cam Rising may be dealing with the lingering effects of a knee injury he suffered last month.

But head coach Kyle Whittingham doesn’t think that impacted Rising’s play in Saturday’s loss at Oregon.

“If you’re out there, you’re good to go,” Whittingham said. “Look at [Oregon quarterback] Bo Nix. Bo Nix was out there, so he was good to go. Can I quantify it? No, other than just saying if you’re on the field, you’re expected to make plays and produce.”

In the immediate aftermath of the University of Utah’s 20-17 loss at Oregon, Whittingham lamented the fact that his offense never got in sync. On Monday, the coach delved deeper into some of the issues.

“We didn’t do much in the throw game, that was probably our biggest deficiency,” Whittingham said as the Utes, clinging to Pac-12 championship game hopes, prepare to close the regular season on Saturday afternoon at Colorado. “We ran for a decent amount, had some decent production there, but we weren’t as sharp, or as productive, or as efficient in the throw game as we needed to be.

“All three of the turnovers came in the throw game. That was the most problematic area for us.”

Rising struggled at Autzen Stadium, finishing 21-for-38 for 170 yards and three interceptions, marking the first three-interception game of his career. Two of the interceptions came in the second half appeared on uncharacteristically poor decisions from Rising. The third one in particular was a crusher, coming with less than 5:00 to play around midfield after a Clark Phillips III interception of Bo Nix gave the Utes the ball back after Oregon appeared ready to bleed the clock out with a three-point lead.

Rising suffered a left knee injury during the USC game on Oct. 15. After the bye, he dressed, but did not play against Washington State, then started in the previous three games. His mobility has appeared limited, as evidenced by far less designed keepers called by offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.

Rising played against Stanford on Nov. 12 with a compression sleeve on the left knee, but the fact he played in a bulkier knee brace at Oregon may have signified some regression.

One other play helped signify Rising’s struggles, a fourth-and-2 pass from the Oregon 26-yard line early in the fourth quarter that landed at Dalton Kincaid’s feet for what would have been a first down. Utah opted to go on fourth down rather than have Jadon Redding attempt a 43-yard field goal for the tie. Redding missed a 38-yard attempt on Utah’s opening drive of the night.

“No, I didn’t detect that,” Whittingham said when asked, after watching the film, if he thought that pass to Kincaid simply slipped from his hand on the release. “You’d have to ask Cam exactly.”

Rising on Saturday night said his knee was not an issue in his performance. Either way, Whittingham wasn’t making excuses on Monday.

Like Rising, Nix was dealing with an injury in the run up to Saturday’s crucial matchup.

Nix’s health was the No. 1 storyline throughout last week after he suffered an ankle injury in a 37-34 loss to Washington on Nov. 12, essentially ending Oregon’s College Football Playoff hopes, while putting its Pac-12 championship game chances in some doubt.

Nix started and played the entire game against Utah, finishing 25-for-37 for 287 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Nix was clearly hobbled, but a game plan from offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham that included short dropbacks and quick throws helped to alleviate health concerns. The Utes sacked Nix just once as he mostly avoided trouble in the backfield.