Does Utah even have a gameplan they work on each week? Based on Saturday's results, I'm highly skeptical that they do. After watching the UNLV game, I can only guess that the team spent the entire week basking in the glow of their win against UCLA, instead of actually focusing on their upcoming opponent. Because of that, they got their butt kicked by a pathetic Rebels team and now are faltering worse than any Utah team since the 1980s.
I've got to wonder what happened between the victory over the Bruins and Saturday night. Did they plan and if they did, what exactly did they plan for? Did Whittingham even try to motivate his troops, or did he expect to just coast with them to victory? It's easy getting a team up for UCLA, but how are you supposed to win a conference if you can't get a team up for a Mountain West foe? I don't care if it's UNLV or TCU, this team should play at full force each week. No letdown, because letdown games are for the weak.
I know it isn't fair to compare Whittingham with Urban Meyer. Whittingham, nor any coach, will ever be as good as Meyer. But I remember the 2004 season and how every week Urban would preach that the next opponent was the biggest on Utah's schedule. He understood that if the Utes were going to finish undefeated, they couldn't take anyone lightly. Every team was gunning for Utah in 2004, knowing they had a shot at ending the Utes' glory. That never happened because Meyer wouldn't let each victory go to the players' heads. He knew that on any given Saturday a team could upset the Utes. That was what lacked from McBride's teams, as they often fell at the worst of times (see 1994 season as an example). But nothing this bad. I don't ever recall Utah getting beat this bad under McBride. Yeah there were embarrassing losses by more points, but not to this extent.
UNLV has been gunning for Utah ever since they started playing each other yearly. It became a bigger game for the Rebels the second Mike Sanford left the Utes for Las Vegas. Whittingham should have known that UNLV would circle this game and that they would come out fighting. He should have known they were going to get the best effort possible from the Rebels and yet, he failed to plan for it. Instead, he panicked early on, as if he was surprised UNLV wasn't just going to roll over. Hell, even in 2005 and 2006 UNLV stayed with Utah for a half. That panic, that blank look on his face during most of the game, is inexcusable. He is a third year head coach and I don't think anyone can defend the complete idiocy of his decision making in this game.
Now Utah has to regroup, play Utah State and hope to finish strong. But sometimes games this bad unravel an entire season. Just ask Larry Coker, whose Miami team got into an ugly brawl with Florida International last year. Even though they won the game, it was fairly obvious he wouldn't be returning as their head coach. Coker was fired shortly after Miami's 17-14 win over Boston College to end the season.
The gameplan Saturday was flawed, but what gets me the most is that Utah didn't look interested in the game the entire night. They ambled through the first half, showed some sign of life in the second, but ultimately gave up. How can a coaching staff allow that to happen? I just don't get it.