Utah quarterback Nate Johnson apologizes for Utes’ poor offense

After the Utes gained just 219 total yards (and only 117 through the air) vs. UCLA on Saturday, the redshirt freshman took to social media to take responsibility for the team’s lack of production.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes quarterback Nate Johnson (13) looks downfield as the Utah Utes host the UCLA Bruins at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday.

After the Utah football team’s latest underwhelming performance on offense, fill-in quarterback Nate Johnson took to social media to apologize.

“I apologize for the way the game was played out,” Johnson wrote on X, the platform formerly know as Twitter. “Credit to our defense for an amazing performance. We will be better next week. Our offense is still awesome, just things will get cleaned up. See you guys next Friday.”

In Saturday’s 14-7 win over then-No. 22-ranked UCLA, the Utes managed just 219 total yards of offense.

Johnson, who split time with Bryson Barnes in Utah’s first two games but took over as the team’s starting QB for the past two, has struggled to consistently move the ball down the field.

Against Weber State on Sept. 16, Johnson completed 13 of 21 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown. Saturday vs. UCLA, he was just 9 of 17 passing for 117 yards and a score.

And while he gained 46 yards rushing against the Bruins, he lost 44 of those in being sacked four times.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham said during his weekly media session Monday that because he’s never on social media, he had no idea that Johnson was absorbing the blame, but said that speaks to his character.

“I’m completely ignorant and oblivious to what he said. But that’s admirable if he’s taking accountability,” said Whittingham. “… I take that as a positive thing from Nate that he would point the finger at himself, even though I’m not buying into that.”

Whittingham conceded that Johnson is still young and learning, in terms of making progressions, and that the team is being careful not to overload him, noting that “he’s got about 70-75% of the offense, and that’s probably where it stays for the time being.” He also added that he believes the receivers and tight ends are getting open enough for the passing game to take a leap, and that Johnson needs to get more comfortable.

Still, he wasn’t putting Saturday’s anemic offense solely down to the redshirt freshman quarterback.

“I don’t know if it’s accurate. There’s there’s a lot that went into our lack of production,” said Whittingham. “You can start with UCLA’s defense — they’re really athletic, fast, a defense that is going to give a lot of people fits this year. But Nate is a stand-up guy, and he is learning how to be a leader.”

Utah will next face No. 19-ranked Oregon State in Corvallis this Friday.