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If there are moral wins, can there be moral defeats?

Normally, when Utah loses a game, I toss and turn that first night because I can't quite shut down my brain and find myself in an endless loop going over what went wrong. 

I've never really experienced this after a win. 

Well, at least until last night. 

I hit the pillow and within minutes, started going over this game and how it rapidly went from promising to dumbfounding. 

While I waited in a concession line at the start of the second quarter, shortly after the Utes had gone up 24-0, I asked Ute fans on Twitter whether the team looked better than expected, about as expected or worse than expected and the flurry of replies at that moment indicated most fans felt the team looked better than expected.

I agreed. At that time, Utah's offense had almost 100 more yards on Montana State's - and the Utes' defense was holding the Bobcats in check, as they had roughly only 33 or so yards at that moment. There had been a touchdown pass by Jordan Wynn, a blocked punt (oh I love when we block a punt) a made field goal (this was a huge concern heading into the game), an interception, a great ground attack and, to top it all off, the offensive line was, at least to a point, protecting Wynn for the most part. 

Had the game ended there, I think we'd all feel pretty good about this year's team.

Unfortunately, there was still two and a half quarters left of play and, at that moment, nearly to the minute I asked that damn question, the Utes sputtered.

The offense found little momentum. The defense started giving up bigger and bigger plays. The offensive line, which had been serviceable for much of the first quarter, failed to hold. Wynn, who produced decent results to that point, started dumping it off for short gains. 

Outside the field goal unit (they didn't miss!) and John White, everything quickly deteriorated.

Just like that, 24-0 turned into 24-7 and then 27-10 and you kind of just sat there waiting for Utah to respond. They didn't. In the third and fourth quarters, they didn't really sniff the end zone and, outside a fake punt, hardly did anything spectacular once they built their solid, but far from dominating, lead.

So as I tried to sleep last night, I started going over this game. Why the abrupt change? How could the team go from playing well enough in the first quarter and five minutes of the second to getting out played, at home, by a FCS school?

Then I started thinking about what lies ahead next week and that's when I realized it - Utah might've won Thursday, but it felt like a loss because of who they're about to take on next Saturday.

In my mind, whether I wanted to or not, I conceded not only defeat to the Trojans - but potentially an ugly defeat.

Yeah, the Utes won and are 1-0 and didn't fully embarrass themselves like Ole Miss and Virginia Tech did last year against FCS schools, but there was nothing in this win that gives me confidence this team is ready to head on the road, to play in front of 90,000 fans, and compete, let alone win, against a hungry and talented USC program.

Call me a defeatist and hopefully I'm proven wrong, but Thursday's game makes it difficult to find any confidence in this team - at least right now. 

When I got home, I decided to check out the other scores and saw, for the most part, that ever FBS team took care of their FCS opponent. Some were even as highly rated as Montana State at their level - as was the case when #10 New Hampshire lost 58-22 to Toledo. 


Villanova, the 13th ranked team, got hammered 42-7 by Temple.

Does that mean those two programs are better than Utah? No, no it doesn't. In fact, I'd wager the Utes would soundly beat Toledo. But that doesn't mean we have less questions than they do.

And that's the problem. We have way too many questions at the moment. It doesn't mean we won't like the answer, or that they won't be answered, it just means, until they do, we're left with this performance. 

Hopefully it's a one-game deal and this team comes out firing against SC. If they do, then no one will remember what happened against Montana State.