Ugh. I really didn't want to write this. I haven't written a report card for a loss since the BYU game in '07. It might not seem like a long time, but think back to where you were nearly two years ago. Then the realization sets in that this was an extremely long and memorable winning streak.
But we knew this was going to happen, right? It's not a shock Utah lost. Teams just don't produce back-to-back undefeated seasons anymore. I can accept that. What I can't accept is their play. I thought the Utes were a better team than they showed Saturday and I hope they ultimately will prove me right.
Yet until they do, it's hard to expect too much from this team. I'm not saying I don't think they'll contend for the conference championship (I do), but I'm not sure they'll win it. Much of that will depend on how they improve from week three to week four.
Offense: D - It was bad. The Utes couldn't move the ball. Didn't have a sustained drive and if it weren't for the Ducks giving Utah the ball a few times, this game isn't even close. Terrance Cain struggled with the long pass. Matt Asiata, who was injured, couldn't build any type of running game and pretty much everything that could go wrong on the offensive end did go wrong - including two crucial interceptions for Cain.
Defense: C-minus - I don't know what to make of this defense. We all knew what Oregon was going to do throughout the game and yet, the defense couldn't stop it. The Ducks were not going to pass, not with how badly Jeremiah Masoli looked throwing the ball. But every time Oregon rushed, they moved the chains. Sure, the Utes had turnovers and some big stops, but in the end, nearly every important down, the Ducks got the yardage needed to sustain drives and nearly all of it came on the ground. Which was a surprise, because I thought the run defense would be the Utes' strong point. It wasn't Saturday and because of that, coupled with the offensive woes, they lost.
The secondary also had some poor moments. The worst happened early in the game when they allowed a 58-yard pass to set up a Ducks touchdown. That not only gave Oregon the 14-7 lead, it also gave them momentum. Prior to that play, the Utes' defense was actually doing a good job. After that? It got sketchy.
Special Teams: D-minus - Horrible. Maybe the worst special teams I've seen out of a Utah squad since the Ron McBride days. The only thing keeping this from an F were the extra points and punt block that got Utah back into the game in the first quarter. Outside of that, the Utes allowed Oregon to return a punt for a touchdown and constantly gave them great field position. The latter is more troublesome because you can always chalk up a punt return for a score to anything, but when you're letting the opposing team start every drive from the 30 to 45-yard line, there is a huge problem. It felt like nearly every Ducks possession started right at or about midfield. That has to change if the Utes are going to do anything this season.
- Dave Schramm: D - Not a good called game at all. I don't understand why he felt the need to throw down field on so many drives. Not when Cain struggled. I also don't get doing it on 3rd and whatever, which resulted in nothing but easy stops for the Ducks. The last call of the first half, a fade, was also head scratching. I understand Schramm is new at this and he'll make mistakes, so I'm not going to get too upset. Let's just hope this is an anomaly instead of a trend.
- Kalani Sitake: C - I don't think the defensive play calling was horrible. The Utes struggled defending, but we all knew the Ducks had a talented offense. I still am disappointed with how poorly they defended against the run and hope changes are made to fix those issues. I will be honest, though, the defense is nowhere near as good as I thought it would be. I'm not sure if that's the losses from last season (namely Paul Kruger or Sean Smith) or Sitake's coaching and inexperience or all of the above. But something needs to be fixed.
- Kyle Whittingham: C+ - I think Whittingham deserves credit by not allowing Utah to fold. When they fell behind 28-10, I thought it was pretty much over. It didn't look like they'd come back, not after the Ducks scored to take an 18-point lead (fun fact, Whittingham's biggest deficit-turned-victory is 10 in the Poinsettia Bowl), but they did. That shows this team has resolve and that's something they lacked a few years ago. Think back to the UCLA game in '06, which started out similar to this. The Utes lost control of the game then and could not recover at any point. They were humiliated by what turned out to be a rather average Bruins squad. This game could have gone down that path. The Utes could have melted down and allowed the Ducks to run them off the field. They didn't. This tells me we might not be in for the same growing pains we saw in 2005 and 2006.