It was not long ago that this team was running up and down the field, scoring at will and beating opponents before the game even started. Over the last ten quarters of play, the Utes have been outscored 89-10. Yes, 89-10. Dropped passes, bad play calling, and some bone headed mistakes have let the fan base to wonder if they have it in them to win either of these last two games.
As of this writing, San Diego State is a two point favorite this week. It has been a long time since the Aztecs were favored in a game against the Utes.
So far, I have seen a few factors that have lead to this downslide.
To begin, let's start with the beginning! The Utes have not started well. TCU jumped on them and instead of playing Utah football, they went right to the pass. That was a nice idea, but TCU was able to get pressure only rushing three and dropping everyone else into coverage. No run game. No need to stack the box. Boom, game over after one quarter.
Against Notre Dame, it went to the other extreme. Notre Dame got up 21-3 and instead of playing Utah football, it was run, run, run, and more run. Utah football is BALANCE. Balanced attack. But there was no flow. No continuity. Reggie Dunn, the fastest player on the team, was used often early in the game, and then nothing.
Utah has so many weapons, probably more than almost any team in the country. But the coaches have not figured out how to utilize them. By my count, 16 players have scored touchdowns offensively for the Utes this year. But they need to figure out how to utilize them.
The next factor is the "wanting it" factor. Everyone talks about the Jordan Wynn slide. Very frustrating. But there was more to it than that. I have in memory two distinct moments against Pittsburgh when Brandon Burton, who is 6 feet tall went up against the 6'5" Jon Baldwin and got to the ball first because he wanted it more. That "want it more" factor is gone. Guys do not want it. We saw it with the defensive backs, we saw it with just about everybody.
Next, there is no calming presence on this team. Will Jordan Wynn learn to do that? It remains to be seen. He is still a sophomore and has another couple years to get that kind of presence.
Coming right out of the gate, Utah needs to get off to a fast start. They need to pick up first downs and move the football. They can not afford these starts where turnovers, special teams botches, and penalties kill drives and give the other team prime position. It nearly killed them against Pitt. It dug their grave against ND and TCU.
Finally, the leaders need to step up and lead. The coaches, seniors, and captains need to realize that this season is slipping away. If Utah plays to its potential, they will win the next three games. San Diego State, BYU, and a mid-level Pac-10 team can not beat the Utes at their best. They can't! But, those teams (obviously a different bowl opponent) can and will beat Utah handily if they continue this uninspired play.
I sincerely hope that Kyle Whittingham and the other leaders took notes on Saturday in the fourth quarter. People who spent hard-earned money travelling across the country to support this team. I hope they noticed those same fans leaving in disgust. I hope it rallies them to want to be better.
So now we get to see where the heart of this team is. They have let TCU beat them twice. They can't afford to make it three in a row.