More questions than answers for slumping Utes

Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Utah looked to have righted their ship a couple weeks ago. They haven't.

I didn't really buy into the idea that Utah was going to go on the road and beat the Washington Huskies. I certainly felt it was possible and I obviously wanted it to happen, but this team still hadn't shown anything on the road that led me to believe they were capable of winning.

That isn't what I ultimately wanted to see - even if it's what we all wanted.

What I wanted to see Saturday was a continued progress and that's absolutely not what we got. Utah regressed greatly this weekend and it's very disappointing considering, for the first time this season, it actually felt like they had some strong momentum. What I saw in Seattle was the worst performance I've seen from Utah since their debacle in Tempe against Arizona State ... back in September.

I think that's the most disappointing thing about this game. Utah just looked bad. Maybe Washington is a very good team, and maybe our hopes and expectations were inflated by two fluky games, but even against UCLA and Oregon State, by all means not very good games, the Utes at least showed heart and fight. Saturday, at the very first sign of adversity, they disappeared.

So, in the end, all that progress we thought we saw against Cal and Washington State, did little outside providing brief sugar highs. Back to the drawing board.

A few weeks ago, I said I felt our talent was better than our overall record and actually felt vindicated by this with their last two home wins. Now I don't know. I still think the talent is there, but it's hard to gauge just how good this team is, or can be, when it looks absolutely lost for huge chunks of the game.

Why are the receivers so inconsistent? Why did Travis Wilson seem to regress? Why is Utah's secondary so darn awful ... and is Charles Henderson really the best option we have when it comes to returning punts?

Is it talent? Is it coaching ... is it both?

Wilson looked tentative, but so was the play calling, It's hard to get into the groove when you're being held back by the coaches. Why, after four straight games of starting, did Brian Johnson (or Kyle Whittingham?) decide to contract the play book and go ultra-conservative in a game where the offense might've benefited from aggression?

So many questions and hardly any new answers. That's the most damning thing about this season - after all these months, after bad losses and supposed progress, this team looks about as baffled today as it did when things originally started going south in Logan.

Now, because of their horrendous play on the road (0-5 and counting), Utah is at serious risk of their first losing season in a decade. That's devastating. I don't care how you want to spin it - a losing season is bad and we're on the cusp of one.

I wish I had the confidence to say it wouldn't happen and that we'll be able to pull back against Arizona and then Colorado, but even if Utah wins Saturday, I'm not entirely confident in saying they won't then drop their final game in Boulder ... because I have absolutely zero confidence this team can win on the road.

How awful is that? Colorado, who's clearly the worst team in the conference, strikes fear into my heart because of the way this team has played away from Salt Lake.

And that leads me to believe this goes beyond talent. If we're competitive at home, which Utah has been (their lone loss at RES came in the fourth quarter against USC), why hasn't this carried over to the road? The gap between home and away is so dramatic that it might just be the biggest in college football right now.

Utah is losing by an average score of 28-13 on the road and yet winning by an average score of 35-18 at home. That is a swing of 32 points in the margins. That's both remarkable and frustrating. This is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personified. Unfortunately, that erratic play has put them on the brink.

I guess the good news is that this week's game is at home and all signs point to a Utah win, maybe even decisively. But can we trust Jekyll to show up or are we going to get Mr. Hyde?

Whichever one does show up will define the season because a loss Saturday is the season. If the Utes are going to make a bowl game, which maybe is presumptuous of us to even talk about at this point, they need to win. It's that simple.

Now is gut check time. Is this team really going to go down losers? Forget the hype from the preseason or the excitement out of that silly two-game win streak, this is now all for pride. It's time this team do something it hasn't been able to do all season ... it's time they deliver.

No excuses, no cowering ... just fight and guts and then hopefully glory.

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